Environmental and geometric drivers of small mammal diversity along elevational gradients in Utah


  • Rebecca J. Rowe

R. J. Rowe (rrowe@umnh.utah.edu), Committee on Evolutionary Biology, Univ. of Chicago, 1025 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA, and Div. of Mammals, The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA, (present address: Utah Museum of Natural History, Univ. of Utah, 1390 East Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA).


The mechanisms shaping patterns of biodiversity along spatial gradients remain poorly known and controversial. Hypotheses have emphasized the importance of both environmental and spatial factors. Much of the uncertainty about the relative role of these processes can be attributed to the limited number of comparative studies that evaluate multiple potential mechanisms. This study examines the relative importance of six variables: temperature, precipitation, productivity, habitat heterogeneity, area, and the mid-domain effect on patterns of species richness for non-volant small mammals along four neighboring mountain ranges in central Utah. Along each of these elevational gradients, a hump-shaped relationship of richness with elevation is evident. This study evaluates whether the processes shaping this common pattern are also common to all gradients. Model selection indicates that no one factor or set of factors best explains patterns of species richness across all gradients, and drivers of diversity may vary seasonally. These findings suggest that commonality in the pattern of species richness, even among elevational gradients with a similar biogeographic history and fauna, cannot be attributed to a simple universal explanation.