Aim To investigate the inter-relationships between energy availability, species richness and human population density, particularly whether human population density influences the manner in which species richness responds to energy availability.
Location British 10-km grid cells.
Methods Using regressions, we investigate how human population density varies with energy availability and the nature of relationships between the numbers of species, classified by abundance and threat categories, and human population density. We then assess whether the relationships between these species richness measures and energy availability are altered when accounting for human population density. We conduct analyses using both independent error models and ones that control for spatial autocorrelation.
Results Human population density was strongly and positively correlated with energy availability. Total species richness, and that of unthreatened, threatened, common and moderately common species, increases in a positive decelerating manner with human density. When human population density was taken into account, these species groups exhibited similar species–energy relationships, but the slopes of these relationships were significantly reduced in independent error models and, in the case of total richness, in spatial models.
Main conclusions Positive correlations between human density and species richness probably arise as both increase with energy availability. Our data are compatible with the suggestion that high human population densities reduce the rate at which species richness increases with energy availability, but additional research is required before causality can be confirmed.