• Abundance;
  • AUC;
  • distribution maps;
  • elevational range;
  • GIS;
  • GLM;
  • hierarchical partitioning;
  • Iberian Peninsula;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • species range margins


Aim  Models relating species distributions to climate or habitat are widely used to predict the effects of global change on biodiversity. Most such approaches assume that climate governs coarse-scale species ranges, whereas habitat limits fine-scale distributions. We tested the influence of topoclimate and land cover on butterfly distributions and abundance in a mountain range, where climate may vary as markedly at a fine scale as land cover.

Location  Sierra de Guadarrama (Spain, southern Europe)

Methods  We sampled the butterfly fauna of 180 locations (89 in 2004, 91 in 2005) in a 10,800 km2 region, and derived generalized linear models (GLMs) for species occurrence and abundance based on topoclimatic (elevation and insolation) or habitat (land cover, geology and hydrology) variables sampled at 100-m resolution using GIS. Models for each year were tested against independent data from the alternate year, using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) (distribution) or Spearman's rank correlation coefficient (rs) (abundance).

Results  In independent model tests, 74% of occurrence models achieved AUCs of > 0.7, and 85% of abundance models were significantly related to observed abundance. Topoclimatic models outperformed models based purely on land cover in 72% of occurrence models and 66% of abundance models. Including both types of variables often explained most variation in model calibration, but did not significantly improve model cross-validation relative to topoclimatic models. Hierarchical partitioning analysis confirmed the overriding effect of topoclimatic factors on species distributions, with the exception of several species for which the importance of land cover was confirmed.

Main conclusions  Topoclimatic factors may dominate fine-resolution species distributions in mountain ranges where climate conditions vary markedly over short distances and large areas of natural habitat remain. Climate change is likely to be a key driver of species distributions in such systems and could have important effects on biodiversity. However, continued habitat protection may be vital to facilitate range shifts in response to climate change.