Aim To introduce rangeMapper, an R package for the study of the macroecological patterns of life-history traits, and demonstrate its capabilities using three case studies. The first case study addresses an important topic in conservation biology: biodiversity hotspots. Specifically, we investigate the congruence between global hotspots of three parameters that describe avian diversity: species richness, endemic species richness and relative body mass diversity. The second case study investigates a topic of relevance for macroecology: the inter-specific relationship between range size and body size for avian assemblages, and how it varies geographically. The third case study tackles a methodological problem in macroecology: the influence of map resolution on statistical inference, i.e. the question of whether and how the relationship between species richness and body mass varies with map resolution.
Innovation rangeMapper offers a tight integration of spatial and statistical tools for macroecological projects and it relies on a high-performance database engine which makes it suitable for managing projects using a large number of species. rangeMapper's architecture follows closely the concepts described by Gaston et al. (2008 Journal of Biogeography, 35, 483–500) and its flexibility allows for both complex data manipulation procedures and easy implementation of new functions. By choosing case studies to cover various technical and conceptual issues we demonstrate rangeMapper's capabilities to address a wide array of questions.
Main conclusion rangeMapper (http://cran.r-project.org/package=rangeMapper) is an open source front end software which can be used to address questions in both fundamental ecological research and conservation biology.