Publication details

Exceptionally poor land snail fauna of central Yakutia (NE Russia): climatic and habitat determinants of species richness

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Year of publication 2013
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Polar Biology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Field Ecology
Keywords Terrestrial snails; Cold climate; Low diversity; Suitable shelters; Species accumulation; Climate harshness hypothesis
Description There is an ongoing debate on the causes of the latitudinal diversity gradient, but diversity decline towards high latitudes is poorly documented for many invertebrate taxa. Therefore, we sampled land snail assemblages at 79 sites and in various habitat types in central Yakutia, a region with extremely continental, cool and dry climate. We tested whether habitats lacking suitable shelters for winter survival harbour less species than those with vegetation cover that softens climatic extremes. Both local species diversity and regional species diversity were extremely low: 13 species were recorded in total with an average of 1.4 species per site. While the majority of grassland sites were without snails (26 of 34 sites), forest sites supported at least one snail species in most cases (38 of 45 sites). Within grasslands, snail occurrences were associated with a higher herb-layer biomass. Numbers of snail species correlated with the amount of available calcium only in forests, in which species accumulation towards more favourable habitats was possible due to softening of climate harshness. As minute snails are known to be effective passive dispersers and the study area was not glaciated during the last glacial stage, there was certainly enough time for colonization of all favourable habitats. Our results suggest climatically driven limitations of both local and regional land snail diversity in central Yakutia. We conclude that the hypothesis of climate harshness remains the most probable explanation of a sharp drop in land snail diversity in high-latitude areas with cold climate.
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