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Dissecting the species–energy relationship

By K.L. Evans, J.J.D. Greenwood and K.J. Gaston

Abstract

Environmental energy availability can explain much of the spatial variation in species richness. Such species–energy relationships encompass a diverse range of forms, and there is intense debate concerning which of these predominate, and the factors promoting this diversity. Despite this there has been relatively little investigation of whether the form, and relative strength, of species–energy relationships varies with (i) the currency of energy availability that is used, and (ii) the ecological characteristics of the constituent species. Such investigations can, however, shed light on the causal mechanisms underlying species–energy relationships. We illustrate this using the British breeding avifauna. The strength of the species–energy relationship is dependent on the energy metric used, with species richness being more closely correlated with temperature than the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, which is a strong correlate of net primary productivity. We find little evidence, however, for the thermoregulatory load hypothesis that high temperatures enable individuals to invest in growth and reproduction, rather than thermoregulation, increasing population sizes that buffer species from extinction. High levels of productive energy may also elevate population size, which is related to extinction risk by a negative decelerating function. Therefore, the rarest species should exhibit the strongest species–energy relationship. We find evidence to the contrary, together with little support for suggestions that high-energy availability elevates species richness by increasing the numbers of specialists or predators

Publisher: The Royal Society
Year: 2005
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:1417

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