Disentangling the effects of geographic distance and environmental dissimilarity on global patterns of species turnover


Hong Qian, Research and Collections Center, Illinois State Museum, 1011 East Ash Street, Springfield, IL 62703, USA. E-mail: hqian@museum.state.il.us


Aim  To distinguish the effects of geographic distance and environmental dissimilarity on global patterns of species turnover in four classes of terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians).

Location  Six hundred and sixty terrestrial ecoregions across the globe.

Methods  We calculated species turnover between each pair of ecoregions, using the Jaccard index (J). We selected seven variables to quantify environment in each ecoregion, and subjected the environmental values to a principal components analysis. For each realm, we applied multiple regression analysis relating the natural logarithm of the Jaccard index (lnJ) to geographic distance alone and in combination with differences in the environment variables measured as principal components (PC). We used partial correlations to partition variance in lnJ between unique contributions of distance and environmental PC scores, the covariation between distance and environment, and unexplained variance. To examine the latitude and species turnover relationship, we regressed lnJ on latitude with distance between ecoregions being included as a covariate.

Results  The natural logarithm of the Jaccard index (lnJ) decreased significantly with increasing geographic distance for all vertebrate classes in each zoogeographic realm, and the slopes of the relationships per 1000 km ranged from −0.251 to −1.043. With environmental differences included in the analysis, both geographic distance and environmental differences were substantial predictors of lnJ for every combination of taxon and realm. On average, the unique contribution of geographic distance to variation in species turnover between ecoregions was about 1.4 times that of the environmental differences between ecoregions. Species turnover generally decreased with increasing latitude when controlling for geographic distance. The value of lnJ for each vertebrate class was highly and positively correlated with those of the other vertebrate classes.

Main conclusions  Our analyses suggest that both dispersal-based and niche-based processes have played important roles in determining faunal similarities among vertebrate assemblages at the spatial scale examined. Furthermore, reptiles and amphibians exhibited greater distance-independent faunal heterogeneity among ecoregions and greater turnover among ecoregions with respect to geographic and environmental distance than birds and mammals.