Significant local-scale plant-insect species richness relationship independent of abiotic effects in the temperate Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot

Kemp, Jurene E. ; Ellis, Allan G. (2017)

CITATION: Kemp, J. E. & Ellis, A. G. 2017. Significant local-scale plant-insect species richness relationship independent of abiotic effects in the temperate Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot. PLoS ONE, 12(1):1-16, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168033.

The original publication is available at http://journals.plos.org/plosone

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

Article

Globally plant species richness is a significant predictor of insect richness. Whether this is the result of insect diversity responding directly to plant diversity, or both groups responding in similar ways to extrinsic factors, has been much debated. Here we assess this relationship in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), a biodiversity hotspot. The CFR has higher plant diversity than expected from latitude (i.e., abiotic conditions), but very little is known about the diversity of insects residing in this region. We first quantify diversity relationships at multiple spatial scales for one of the dominant plant families in the CFR, the Restionaceae, and its associated insect herbivore community. Plant and insect diversity are significantly positively correlated at the local scales (10±50 m; 0.1±3 km), but not at the regional scales (15± 20 km; 50±70 km). The local scale relationship remains significantly positively correlated even when accounting for the influence of extrinsic variables and other vegetation attributes. This suggests that the diversity of local insect assemblages may be more strongly influenced by plant species richness than by abiotic variables. Further, vegetation age and plant structural complexity also influenced insect richness. The ratio of insect species per plant species in the CFR is comparable to other temperate regions around the world, suggesting that the insect diversity of the CFR is high relative to other areas of the globe with similar abiotic conditions, primarily as a result of the unusually high plant diversity in the region. Introduction

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