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Beta Diversity on Geographic Gradients in Britain
Susan Harrison, Sally J. Ross and John H. Lawton
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 61, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 151-158
Published by: British Ecological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/5518
Page Count: 8
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1. We measured beta diversity, or turnover in species composition, in each of 15 taxa (including plants, vertebrates and invertebrates), along two common transects: N-S and W-E arrays of 50X50 km squares across Britain. Comparing taxa, we asked whether high beta diversity is associated with poor powers of dispersal. Within taxa, we asked whether turnover increases consistently with geographic distance. 2. Beta diversity on this scale was found to be low in all groups. Total (transect) species richness increased by only 3-13% per 50X50 km square, relative to the average value of local (within-square) richness; or by 0.6-6% per square, relative to the maximum value of local richness. Among taxa, beta diversity showed no tendency to be higher in poorer dispersers. 3. In nearly all taxa, beta diversity as defined by Whittaker (1960) increased linearly with distance on the N-S transect. However, this was shown to be largely the effect of gradients in alpha (local, within-square) diversity. Moreover, distance is highly correlated with environmental (climatic) dissimilarity, providing an alternative explanation for distance effects. 4. We conclude that in the British biota, turnover at this scale is more the product of range and habitat restriction than of dispersal limitation; and that turnover is a relatively minor component of regional diversity, because of the predominance of strong gradients in alpha diversity.
Journal of Animal Ecology © 1992 British Ecological Society