The Princeton Guide to Ecology

By Simon A. Levin | Go to book overview

IV.6
Spatial Patterns of Species Diversity
in Terrestrial Environments
Brian A. Maurer
OUTLINE
1. The physical environment
2. Dynamics of geographic populations
3. Patterns in genetic variation and adaptation
4. Synthesis: How spatial patterns in species diversity are generated and maintained
5. Empirical sampling protocols
6. Species abundance and relative abundance distributions
7. Species-area relationships
8. Abundance-distribution relationships
9. Nested subsets community pattern
10. Species diversity along environmental gradients
11. Understanding species diversity

Spatial patterns of species diversity have intrigued ecologists since European natural historians discovered that the flora and fauna of the world varied dramatically across the face of the Earth. It is only within the last few decades that a clear understanding of the processes underlying these patterns has arisen. Variation in the number of species found across space depends on several interacting sets of processes. The first set of processes affect the physical and chemical properties of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere. The second set of processes comprises the demographic responses of individual organisms interacting with their physical and biological environment summed up within geographic populations of different species. The final set of processes are the long-term adaptive responses of populations as natural selection shapes gene pools of different species over evolutionary time. The complex interactions of these sets of factors occur across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, making it difficult to isolate simple explanations for data collected at single spatial and/ or temporal scales.

In what follows, I provide an outline for how the three sets of processes work together to set the broad patterns of species diversity seen across geographic space. Here I focus on terrestrial patterns, although a similar argument applies to marine patterns of species diversity. After outlining the processes underlying species diversity variation, I show how different methods of sampling species diversity across geographic space produce the variety of patterns documented by ecologists and biogeographers.


GLOSSARY

adaptive syndrome. The suite of morphological, physiological, and behavioral characters that determine an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce

α diversity. The species diversity of a locally sampled site

β diversity. The turnover in species diversity among different sites within a landscape, generally referring to sites that share the same metacommunity

γ diversity. Turnover in species diversity among different metacommunities

geographic population. All viable populations of a species found within the species’ geographic range

geographic range. The spatial region that includes all viable populations of a species

metacommunity. For any given local community, the assemblage of all geographic populations that contribute immigrants to the community

metapopulation. A group of local populations linked together by dispersal

species diversity. The number and relative abundances of species within a specified geographic region, often divided into α, β, and γ diversity

viable population. Any population that can persist through time by a combination of local recruitment and immigration


1. THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

Spatial patterns of species diversity result from the interplay of biology with large-scale patterns in the physical properties of the Earth. For a complete de-

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