- Global variation in woodpecker species richness shaped by tree availability
- Journal of Biogeography
- Volume | Issue number
- 44 | 8
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Aim: Species richness patterns are generally thought to be determined by abiotic variables at broad spatial scales, with biotic factors being only important at fine spatial scales. However, many organism groups depend intimately on other organisms, raising questions about this generalization. As an example, woodpeckers (Picidae) are closely associated with trees and woody habitats because of multiple morphological and ecological specializations. In this study, we test whether this strong biotic association causes woodpecker diversity to be closely linked to tree availability at a global scale.
Methods: We used spatial and non‐spatial regressions to test for relationships between broad‐scale woodpecker species richness and predictor variables describing current and deep‐time availability of trees, current climate, Quaternary climate change, human impact, topographical heterogeneity and biogeographical region. We further used structural equation models to test for direct and indirect effects of predictor variables.
Results: There was a strong positive relationship between woodpecker species richness and current tree cover and annual precipitation, respectively. Precipitation also showed a strong indirect effect on woodpecker richness via the effects on tree availability. Deep‐time tree availability, Quaternary climate change, human influence and other abiotic factors showed weaker direct effects. Human influence had a negative effect on tree availability, and hence a negative indirect effect on woodpecker species richness.
Main conclusions: Global species richness of woodpeckers is primarily shaped by current tree cover and precipitation, reflecting a strong biotic association between woodpeckers and trees. Human influence can have a negative effect on woodpecker diversity when humans reduce tree availability. Hence, woodpeckers exemplify how broad‐scale diversity patterns are predominantly shaped by a biotic factor, and how climate and human influence can have indirect effects on animal biodiversity via the effects on tree availability and forest cover.
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