A global test of ecoregions.
Nature ecology & evolution
A foundational paradigm in biological and Earth sciences is that our planet is divided into distinct ecoregions and biomes demarking unique assemblages of species. This notion has profoundly influenced scientific research and environmental policy. Given recent advances in technology and data availability, however, we are now poised to ask whether ecoregions meaningfully delimit biological communities. Using over 200 million observations of plants, animals and fungi we show compelling evidence that ecoregions delineate terrestrial biodiversity patterns. We achieve this by testing two competing hypotheses: the sharp-transition hypothesis, positing that ecoregion borders divide differentiated biotic communities; and the gradual-transition hypothesis, proposing instead that species turnover is continuous and largely independent of ecoregion borders. We find strong support for the sharp-transition hypothesis across all taxa, although adherence to ecoregion boundaries varies across taxa. Although plant and vertebrate species are tightly linked to sharp ecoregion boundaries, arthropods and fungi show weaker affiliations to this set of ecoregion borders. Our results highlight the essential value of ecological data for setting conservation priorities and reinforce the importance of protecting habitats across as many ecoregions as possible. Specifically, we conclude that ecoregion-based conservation planning can guide investments that simultaneously protect species-, community- and ecosystem-level biodiversity, key for securing Earth's life support systems into the future.
View details for PubMedID 30397301
Consistently inconsistent drivers of patterns of microbial diversity and abundance at macroecological scales.
Macroecology seeks to understand broad-scale patterns in the diversity and abundance of organisms, but macroecologists typically study aboveground macroorganisms. Belowground organisms regulate numerous ecosystem functions, yet we lack understanding of what drives their diversity. Here, we examine the controls on belowground diversity along latitudinal and elevational gradients. We performed a global meta-analysis of 325 soil communities across 20 studies conducted along temperature and soil pH gradients. Belowground taxa, whether bacterial or fungal, observed along a given gradient of temperature or soil pH were equally likely to show a linear increase, linear decrease, humped pattern, trough-shaped pattern, or no pattern in diversity along the gradient. Land-use intensity weakly affected the diversity-temperature relationship, but no other factor did so. Our study highlights disparities among diversity patterns of soil microbial communities. Belowground diversity may be controlled by the associated climatic and historical contexts of particular gradients, by factors not typically measured in community-level studies, or by processes operating at scales that do not match the temporal and spatial scales under study. Because these organisms are responsible for a suite of key processes, understanding the drivers of their distribution and diversity is fundamental to understanding the functioning of ecosystems.
View details for DOI 10.1002/ecy.1829
View details for PubMedID 28380683