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PLoS Biol. 2007 Oct;5(10):e272.

Putting beta-diversity on the map: broad-scale congruence and coincidence in the extremes.

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Curriculum in Ecology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America.


Beta-diversity, the change in species composition between places, is a critical but poorly understood component of biological diversity. Patterns of beta-diversity provide information central to many ecological and evolutionary questions, as well as to conservation planning. Yet beta-diversity is rarely studied across large extents, and the degree of similarity of patterns among taxa at such scales remains untested. To our knowledge, this is the first broad-scale analysis of cross-taxon congruence in beta-diversity, and introduces a new method to map beta-diversity continuously across regions. Congruence between amphibian, bird, and mammal beta-diversity in the Western Hemisphere varies with both geographic location and spatial extent. We demonstrate that areas of high beta-diversity for the three taxa largely coincide, but areas of low beta-diversity exhibit little overlap. These findings suggest that similar processes lead to high levels of differentiation in amphibian, bird, and mammal assemblages, while the ecological and biogeographic factors influencing homogeneity in vertebrate assemblages vary. Knowledge of beta-diversity congruence can help formulate hypotheses about the mechanisms governing regional diversity patterns and should inform conservation, especially as threat from global climate change increases.

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