The spatial configuration of taxonomic biodiversity along a tropical elevational gradient: α-, β-, and γ-partitions

TitleThe spatial configuration of taxonomic biodiversity along a tropical elevational gradient: α-, β-, and γ-partitions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsWillig, MR, Presley, SJ
Keywordsdiversity, dominance, evenness, gastropoda, hierarchical partitioning of diversity, Puerto Rico, richness, tropical montane forest
AbstractAbstract Biodiversity at larger spatial scales (γ) can be driven by within-site partitions (α), with little variation in composition among locations, or can be driven by among-site partitions (β) that signal the importance of spatial heterogeneity. For tropical elevational gradients, we determined the (a) extent to which variation in γ is driven by α- or β-partitions; (b) elevational form of the relationship for each partition; and (c) extent to which elevational gradients are molded by zonation in vegetation or by gradual variation in climatic or abiotic characteristics. We sampled terrestrial gastropods along two transects in the Luquillo Mountains. One passed through multiple vegetation zones (tabonuco, palo colorado, and elfin forests), and one passed through only palm forest. We quantified variation in hierarchical partitions (α, β, and γ) of species richness, evenness, diversity, and dominance, as well as in the content and quality of litter. Total gastropod abundance linearly decreased with increasing elevation along both transects, but was consistently higher in palm than in other forest types. The gradual linear decline in γ-richness was a consequence of opposing patterns with regard to α-richness (monotonic decrease) and β-richness (monotonic increase). For evenness, diversity, and dominance, α-partitions and γ-partitions evinced mid-elevational peaks. The spatial organization of gastropod biodiversity did not mirror the zonation of vegetation. Rather, it was molded by: (a) elevational variation in productivity or nutrient characteristics, (b) the interspersion of palm forest within other forest types, and (c) the cloud condensation point acting as a transition between low and high elevation faunas. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.