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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • biodiversity;
  • birds;
  • macroecology;
  • regression;
  • spatial scale;
  • spatial stationarity;
  • species richness patterns

ABSTRACT

Aim  This article aims to test for and explore spatial nonstationarity in the relationship between avian species richness and a set of explanatory variables to further the understanding of species diversity variation.

Location  Sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods  Geographically weighted regression was used to study the relationship between species richness of the endemic avifauna of sub-Saharan Africa and a set of perceived environmental determinants, comprising the variables of temperature, precipitation and normalized difference vegetation index.

Results  The relationships between species richness and the explanatory variables were found to be significantly spatially variable and scale-dependent. At local scales > 90% of the variation was explained, but this declined at coarser scales, with the greatest sensitivity to scale variation evident for narrow ranging species. The complex spatial pattern in regression model parameter estimates also gave rise to a spatial variation in scale effects.

Main conclusions  Relationships between environmental variables are generally assumed to be spatially stationary and conventional, global, regression techniques are therefore used in their modelling. This assumption was not satisfied in this study, with the relationships varying significantly in space. In such circumstances the average impression provided by a global model may not accurately represent conditions locally. Spatial nonstationarity in the relationship has important implications, especially for studies of species diversity patterns and their scaling.