Publication details

Unimodal Latitudinal Pattern of Land-Snail Species Richness across Northern Eurasian Lowlands

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Year of publication 2014
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source PLoS ONE
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Field Ecology
Keywords climatic control; cold stress; drought stress; latitudinal gradient of biodiversity; molluscs; steppe; taiga; tundra; water-energy dynamics; Western Siberia
Description Large-scale patterns of species richness and their causes are still poorly understood for most terrestrial invertebrates, although invertebrates can add important insights into the mechanisms that generate regional and global biodiversity patterns. Here we explore the general plausibility of the climate-based “water-energy dynamics” hypothesis using the latitudinal pattern of land-snail species richness across extensive topographically homogeneous lowlands of northern Eurasia. We established a 1480-km long latitudinal transect across the Western Siberian Plain (Russia) from the Russia-Kazakhstan border (54.5°N) to the Arctic Ocean (67.5°N), crossing eight latitudinal vegetation zones: steppe, forest-steppe, subtaiga, southern, middle and northern taiga, forest-tundra, and tundra. We sampled snails in forests and open habitats each half-degree of latitude and used generalized linear models to relate snail species richness to climatic variables and soil calcium content measured in situ. Contrary to the classical prediction of latitudinal biodiversity decrease, we found a striking unimodal pattern of snail species richness peaking in the subtaiga and southern-taiga zones between 57 and 59° N. The main south-to-north interchange of the two principal diversity constraints, i.e. drought stress vs. cold stress, explained most of the variance in the latitudinal diversity pattern. Water balance, calculated as annual precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration, was a single variable that could explain 81.7% of the variance in species richness. Our data suggest that the “water-energy dynamics” hypothesis can apply not only at the global scale but also at subcontinental scales of higher latitudes, as water availability was found to be the primary limiting factor also in this extratropical region with summer-warm and dry climate. A narrow zone with a sharp south-to-north switch in the two main diversity constraints seems to constitute the dominant and general pattern of terrestrial diversity across a large part of northern Eurasia, resulting in a subcontinental diversity hotspot of various taxa in this zone.
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