Insect macroecological patterns along an altitudinal gradient : the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor

Botes, Antoinette (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2006-04)

Dissertation (PhD)--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The central goal in macroecology is to determine species diversity patterns across ecological gradients. Altitudinal and latitudinal patterns in species richness are often assumed to be analogous. Furthermore, the primary mechanisms underlying richness patterns along these two gradients might be similar. To date, few studies have tested whether the hypotheses proposed to explain latitudinal richness variation apply to patterns across altitude. This study therefore tests several hypotheses proposed to explain patterns in species diversity (i.e. ambient energy, productivity, area and geometric constraints) and their underlying mechanisms using altitudinal gradients in epigaeic ant and beetle species richness in the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC) (Western Cape, South Africa). The study was conducted across an altitudinal gradient that was laid out from sea level to the top of a mountain (approximately 2000 m above sea level) and down the other side thereof. First, it was determined how the ant and beetle assemblages differ between the main vegetation types included in the transect and which environmental variables might underlie these differences. Thereafter, the variation in species richness and range size patterns of the two groups was investigated across the full altitudinal gradient. This is the first study that tests the applicability of two mid-domain models across such an altitudinal gradient using both complete and partial assessments. The models explained large proportions of the variance in range sizes across three domains but the ranges could have been constrained to show peaks in the middle of the domains due to the way in which the boundaries of the domains were selected. By contrast, the mid-domain models were not important in explaining species richness patterns, which suggests that they cannot explain diversity across the gradient. The species richness patterns of the two groups did not show the predicted mid-altitudinal peak. Moreover, it was demonstrated that different processes structure ant and tenebrionid assemblages across the same altitudinal transect. Ant species diversity was highly correlated to contemporary climatic variables, while historical factors appear to play a more important role in structuring tenebrionid beetle assemblages. Furthermore, support was found for the species energy theory in the ant assemblages, as well as for two of its underlying mechanisms, namely the more individuals hypothesis and the niche position mechanism. These results suggest that there are likely to be substantial and complex changes to ant assemblages under the predicted climate change scenarios for the region. Given the crucial role played by this group in ecosystem functioning (e.g. myrmecochory) it is suggested that these responses are not likely to be a response solely to vegetation changes, but might also precipitate vegetation changes. This study also forms the basis of a long-term monitoring programme to establish baseline data for the epigaeic ants and tenebrionids and to monitor changes in these communities due to climate change.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Een van die sentrale idees in makro-ekologie is om die patrone in spesies diversiteit oor ekologiese gradiënte te ondersoek. Verder word daar aangeneem dat spesie rykheidspatrone oor hoogte- en breedtegradiënte analoog is aan mekaar en dat die primêre onderliggende meganismes van die patrone dieselfde kan wees oor hierdie twee gradiënte. Tot dusver het min studies getoets of die voorgestelde hipoteses wat breedtegradiënte in spesie rykheid verduidelik van toepassing is op hoogtegradiënte. Hierdie studie toets dus verskeie van hierdie hipoteses (aanvoelbare temperatuur, produktiwiteit, area en geometriese beperkinge) en hulle onderliggende meganismes in mier en kewer spesie rykheid in die Groter Cederberg Biodiversiteits Korridor (GCBK) (Wes Kaap, Suid Afrika). Die studie is uitgevoer oor ‘n hoogtegradiënt wat vanaf see vlak tot ongeveer 2000 meter bo seevlak en weer aan die ander kant van die berg af uitgelê is. Eerstens is daar bepaal hoe die mier en kewer diversiteit verskil tussen die hoof planttipes wat oor die hoogtegradiënt voorgekom het en watter omgewingsveranderlikes daarvoor verantwoordelik is. Daarna is die variasie in spesie rykheid en area van verspreiding van die twee groepe ondersoek oor die hele hoogtegradiënt. Hierdie is die eerste studie wat die toepaslikheid van twee mid-domein modelle oor so ‘n hoogtegradiënt toets met behulp van volledige en gedeeltelike ondersoeke. Die modelle het baie van die variasie in area van verspreiding verduidelik oor drie domeine maar die areas van verspreiding kon beperk gewees het om pieke in die middel van die domeine te vorm as gevolg van die manier waarop die grense van die domeine gekies is. In teenstelling, het die modelle nie spesie rykheid verduidelik nie en dus kan hulle nie spesie diversiteit oor hierdie gradiënt verduidelik nie. Die spesie rykheidspatrone van die twee groepe het nie die verwagte piek by midhoogte gewys nie. Verder het verskillende prosesse mier en kewer groeperings oor die hoogtegradiënt gestruktureer. Mier diversiteit was hoogs gekorroleer met kontemporêre klimaatsveranderlikes, terwyl historiese faktore belangriker was vir die kewers. Die spesie-energie teorie was ondersteun deur die data, asook die meer individue hipotese en die nis posisie meganisme. Hierdie resultaat dui daarop dat daar moontlik komplekse veranderinge in mier groeperings gaan plaasvind soos die klimaat verander. Miere vervul belangrike ekologiese prosesse in ekosisteme, wat beteken dat die laasgenoemde verandering nie bloot net gaan plaasvind as gevolg van veranderinge in die plantegroei nie, maar dat hulle self ook veranderinge kan veroorsaak. Hierdie studie vorm ook die basis van ‘n langtermyn moniteringsprogram om basislyn data vir hierdie twee ekologies belangrike groepe vas te stel en om veranderinge wat in hierdie gemeenskappe plaasvind, as gevolg van klimaatsverandering, te monitor.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/21552
This item appears in the following collections: