Aim To deconstruct the biodiversity pattern of the 152 waterbird species breeding in Europe to better understand its multiple causal processes.
Location Continental Europe, Iceland and the British Isles.
Methods We considered the orders that are typically comprised by swimming, diving or wading birds, which inhabit marshes, fens, peatlands and fresh, brackish or salt waters, including coastal waters. We used the 55 main river basins of Europe as geographical units, and searched for either chorotypes (groups of similar species distributions) or gradual replacement of species throughout the river basins. Chorotypes were recognized by applying a probabilistic classification method to the distributions. Then we used GLM to characterize the extent and the species richness of each chorotype according to energy availability (higher levels of environmental energy favouring the presence of species), climatic stress due to an excess of energy, availability of water, productivity, seasonality and surface area.
Results One hundred and forty species significantly aggregate into nine chorotypes. The other 12 species, most of them marine, are centred on Great Britain, dropping away progressively on coasts further away from there. Differences in either the availability of energy or climatic stress significantly characterized the distribution of seven chorotypes comprising 90.8% of the species.
Main conclusions Chorotypes are meaningful and useful to deconstruct biodiversity patterns. Our results suggest that energy is the main factor related to the biogeographical patterns of breeding waterbirds in Europe, and provide an insight into regional trends of species richness previously analysed with a habitat-scale perspective.