Aim To test the mechanisms driving bird species richness at broad spatial scales using eigenvector-based spatial filtering.
Location South America.
Methods An eigenvector-based spatial filtering was applied to evaluate spatial patterns in South American bird species richness, taking into account spatial autocorrelation in the data. The method consists of using the geographical coordinates of a region, based on eigenanalyses of geographical distances, to establish a set of spatial filters (eigenvectors) expressing the spatial structure of the region at different spatial scales. These filters can then be used as predictors in multiple and partial regression analyses, taking into account spatial autocorrelation. Autocorrelation in filters and in the regression residuals can be used as stopping rules to define which filters will be used in the analyses.
Results Environmental component alone explained 8% of variation in richness, whereas 77% of the variation could be attributed to an interaction between environment and geography expressed by the filters (which include mainly broad-scale climatic factors). Regression coefficients of environmental component were highest for AET. These results were unbiased by short-scale spatial autocorrelation. Also, there was a significant interaction between topographic heterogeneity and minimum temperature.
Conclusion Eigenvector-based spatial filtering is a simple and suitable statistical protocol that can be used to analyse patterns in species richness taking into account spatial autocorrelation at different spatial scales. The results for South American birds are consistent with the climatic hypothesis, in general, and energy hypothesis, in particular. Habitat heterogeneity also has a significant effect on variation in species richness in warm tropical regions.