University of Wisconsin–Madison
Spatial Analysis For Conservation and Sustainability

The richness–heterogeneity relationship differs between heterogeneity measures within and among habitats

Download Bar-Massada & Wood 2014

The positive monotonic relationship between habitat heterogeneity and species richness is a cornerstone of ecology. Recently, it was suggested that this relationship should be unimodal rather than monotonic due to a tradeoff between environmental heterogeneity and population sizes, which increases local species extinctions at high heterogeneity levels. Here, we studied the richness–heterogeneity relationship for an avian community using two different environmental variables, foliage-height diversity and cover type diversity. We analyzed the richness–heterogeneity within different habitat types (grasslands, savannas, or woodlands) and at the landscape scale. We found strong evidence that both positive and unimodal relationships exist at the landscape scale. Within habitats we found positive relationships between richness and heterogeneity in grasslands and woodlands, and unimodal relationships in savannas. We suggest that the length of the environmental heterogeneity gradient (which is affected by both spatial scale and the environmental variable being analyzed) affects the type of the richness–heterogeneity relationship. We conclude that the type of the relationship between species richness and environmental heterogeneity is non-ubiquitous, and varies both within and among habitats and environmental variables.