Habitat and climate heterogeneity maintain beta-diversity of birds among landscapes within ecoregions


*Correspondence: Joseph A. Veech, School of Biological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639, USA. E-mail: joseph.veech@unco.edu


Aim  Habitat and climate heterogeneity may affect patterns of species diversity from the relatively local scale of communities to the broad biogeographical scale of continents. However, the effects of heterogeneity on species diversity have not been studied as widely at intermediate scales although differences among landscapes in local climate and habitat should maintain beta-diversity.

Location  Bailey ecoregions in the USA.

Methods  Using a geographically extensive dataset on bird distribution and abundance in 35 ecoregions, we tested for the effects of habitat and climate heterogeneity on beta-diversity at two discrete spatial scales: among sample points within landscapes, and among landscapes within ecoregions.

Results  Landscape-level beta-diversity typically accounted for 50% or more of gamma-diversity and was significantly and positively related to habitat heterogeneity (elevational range within an ecoregion) and climate heterogeneity (variation in potential evapotranspiration). Contrary to predictions, point-level beta-diversity was negatively related to habitat and climate heterogeneity, perhaps because heterogeneity constrains alpha-diversity at the landscape level. The geographical spatial separation of landscapes within an ecoregion did not significantly affect beta-diversity at either scale.

Main conclusions  Our results suggest that habitat selection and adaptation to local climate may be the primary processes structuring bird diversity among landscapes within ecoregions, and that dispersal limitation has a lesser role in influencing beta-diversity among landscapes.