High community turnover and dispersal limitation relative to rapid climate change

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Aim Many competing hypotheses seek to identify the mechanisms behind species richness gradients. Yet, the determinants of species turnover over broad scales are uncertain. We test whether environmental dissimilarity predicts biotic turnover spatially and temporally across an array of environmental variables and spatial scales using recently observed climate changes as a pseudo-experimental opportunity. Location Canada. Methods We used an extensive database of observation records of 282 Canadian butterfly species collected between 1900 and 2010 to characterize spatial and temporal turnover based on Jaccard indices. We compare relationships between spatial turnover and differences in an array of relevant environmental conditions, including aspects of temperature, precipitation, elevation, primary productivity and land cover. Measurements were taken within 100-, 200- and 400-km grid cells, respectively. We tested the relative importance of each variable in predicting spatial turnover using bootstrap analysis. Finally, we tested for effects of temperature and precipitation change on temporal turnover, including distinctly accounting for turnover under individual species’ potential dispersal limitations. Results Temperature differences between areas correlate with spatial turnover in butterfly assemblages, independently of distance, sampling differences or the spatial resolution of the analysis. Increasing temperatures are positively related to biotic turnover within quadrats through time. Limitations on species dispersal may cause observed biotic turnover to be lower than expected given the magnitude of temperature changes through time. Main conclusions Temperature differences can account for spatial trends in biotic dissimilarity and turnover through time in areas where climate is changing. Butterfly communities are changing quickly in some areas, probably reflecting the dispersal capacities of individual species. However, turnover is lower through time than expected in many areas, suggesting that further work is needed to understand the factors that limit dispersal across broad regions. Our results illustrate the large-scale effects of climate change on biodiversity in areas with strong environmental gradients."




Lewthwaite, Jayme M. M., Diane M. Debinski, Jeremy T. Kerr. 2016. High community turnover and dispersal limitation relative to rapid climate change. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 26(4), 459–471. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/geb.12553.
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