Species richness change across spatial scales

14 April 2019

Chase, Jonathan; McGill, Brian J.; Thompson, Patrick; Antão, Laura; Bates , Amanda ; Blowes, Shane; Dornelas, Maria; Gonzalez, Andrew; Magurran, Anne; Supp, Sarah; Winter, Marten; Bjorkmann, Anne; Bruelheide, Helge; Byrnes, Jarrett; Cabral, Juliano Sarm

Humans have elevated global extinction rates and thus lowered global-scale species richness. However, there is no a priori reason to expect that losses of global species richness should always, or even often, trickle down to losses of species richness at regional and local scales, even though this relationship is often assumed. Here, we show that scale can modulate our estimates of species richness change through time in the face of anthropogenic pressures, but not in a unidirectional way. Instead, the magnitude of species richness change through time can increase, decrease, reverse, or be unimodal across spatial scales. Using several case studies, we show different forms of scale-dependent richness change through time in the face of anthropogenic pressures. For example, Central American corals show a homogenization pattern, where small scale richness is largely unchanged through time, while larger scale richness change is highly negative. Alternatively, birds in North America showed a differentiation effect, where species richness was again largely unchanged through time at small scales, but was more positive at larger scales. Finally, we collated data from a heterogeneous set of studies of different taxa measured through time from sites ranging from small plots to entire continents, and found highly variable patterns that nevertheless imply complex scale-dependence in several taxa. In summary, understanding how biodiversity is changing in the Anthropocene requires an explicit recognition of the influence of spatial scale, and we conclude with some recommendations for how to better incorporate scale into our estimates of change.

Doi
10.1111/oik.05968