Phylogenetic alpha and beta diversities of butterfly communities correlate with climate in the western Swiss Alps


Loïc Pellissier, Dept of Ecology and Evolution, Univ. of Lausanne, Bâtiment Biophore, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. E-mail:


The observation of non-random phylogenetic distribution of traits in communities provides evidence for niche-based community assembly. Environment may influence the phylogenetic structure of communities because traits determining how species respond to prevailing conditions can be phylogenetically conserved. In this study, we investigate the variation of butterfly species richness and of phylogenetic α- and β-diversities along temperature and plant species richness gradients. Our study indicates that butterfly richness is independently positively correlated to temperature and plant species richness in the study area. However, the variation of phylogenetic α- and β-diversities is only correlated to temperature. The significant phylogenetic clustering at high elevation suggests that cold temperature filters butterfly lineages, leading to communities mostly composed of closely related species adapted to those climatic conditions. These results suggest that in colder and more severe conditions at high elevations deterministic processes and not purely stochastic events drive the assemblage of butterfly communities.