Elevation-diversity patterns through space and time: ant communities of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of southern Africa

Bishop, Tom R., Robertson, Mark P., van Rensburg, Berndt J. and Parr, Catherine L. (2014) Elevation-diversity patterns through space and time: ant communities of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of southern Africa. Journal of Biogeography, 41 12: 2256-2268. doi:10.1111/jbi.12368

Author Bishop, Tom R.
Robertson, Mark P.
van Rensburg, Berndt J.
Parr, Catherine L.
Title Elevation-diversity patterns through space and time: ant communities of the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of southern Africa
Journal name Journal of Biogeography   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0305-0270
Publication date 2014-06-24
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/jbi.12368
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 41
Issue 12
Start page 2256
End page 2268
Total pages 13
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Aim: Patterns of biological diversity are often investigated across space but little work has attempted to explore the consistency of such observations through time. Here, our aim was to understand the patterns of diversity for a functionally critical taxon, the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), through space and time using an extensive dataset collected across an elevational gradient. In addition, we evaluated the importance of two key postulated drivers of elevational diversity patterns: temperature and available area.

Location: The Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains of southern Africa.

Methods: We sampled epigaeic ant communities biannually for 7 years (2006-2012) at eight different elevational sites. We then used an information theoretic approach combined with generalized linear mixed models to: (1) describe diversity patterns through space and time; (2) assess the importance of different abiotic drivers; and (3) understand how much spatio-temporal variation can be explained by these drivers. Simple regression approaches were also used to test for differences in seasonal variation along the elevational gradient.

Results: We found clear mid-elevational peaks of species density and evenness measures. Abundance patterns were complex. The spatial distributions of all three metrics changed across seasons and years. Temperature variables had important roles in explaining both species density and abundance patterns, whilst species density was also influenced by available area. In conjunction, we found much greater seasonal variability in species density at low elevations. This variation was independent of differences in species pool size.

Main conclusions: We found patterns of ant diversity that are strongly modulated by temporal change. There was a consistent and strong signature of seasonality on the elevation-diversity patterns of the ants, whilst annual changes throughout the study period had a weaker influence. We conclude that both spatial and temporal patterns are driven primarily by temperature, with only a weak influence of available elevational area. This study is the first to describe the spatio-temporal distribution of a suite of community-level metrics along an elevational gradient and implies that temporal variation should be considered more carefully in studies of invertebrate diversity, particularly with respect to elevation and the mechanisms that may be maintaining diversity patterns.
Keyword Ant
Elevational gradient
Mid-domain peak
Southern Africa
Spatio-temporal variability
Species diversity
Species richness
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online ahead of print 26 June 2014.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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