NCEAS Project 12208

The role of niche conservatism in producing biodiversity gradients

  • Howard V. Cornell
  • Susan P. Harrison
  • Christy M. McCain

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group17th—20th October 2008Participant List  
Working Group5th—7th March 2009Participant List  
Working Group5th—8th November 2009Participant List  

Species diversity at broad spatial scales increases most strongly with productivity (terrestrial realm) and temperature (marine realm). The reason for such global-scale trends is still unknown. Ecological mechanisms operate locally and therefore appear inadequate to explain why these patterns are strongest at the largest geographic scales. Our goal is to test a novel evolutionary/historical hypothesis - the climatic "niche-conservatism" hypothesis - which postulates that more species inhabit more productive or warmer environments because most higher taxa originated in such environments, and evolutionary constraints limit occupancy of colder or more arid regions. This hypothesis yields the testable prediction that ancestral climate state accounts for the strength of productivity- or temperature-richness relationships among taxa. We will test this using newly developed phylogenetic methods on both terrestrial and marine data. We will also quantify the timescales over which niche conservatism operates, analyze historical climate-richness data, and investigate possible mechanisms for niche conservatism.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Buckley, Lauren B.; Davies, T. Jonathan; Ackerly, David D.; Kraft, Nathan J.B.; Harrison, Susan P.; Anacker, Brian L.; Cornell, Howard V.; Damschen, Ellen I.; Grytnes, John A.; Hawkins, Bradford A.; McCain, Christy M.; Stephens, Patrick R.; Wiens, John. 2010. Phylogeny, niche conservatism and the latitudinal diversity gradient in mammals. Proceedings of the the Royal Society B. Vol: 277(1691). Pages 2131-2138.
Journal Article Hawkins, Bradford A.; McCain, Christy M.; Davies, T. Jonathan; Buckley, Lauren B.; Anacker, Brian L.; Cornell, Howard V.; Damschen, Ellen I.; Grytnes, John A.; Harrison, Susan P.; Holt, Robert D.; Kraft, Nathan J.B.; Stephens, Patrick R. 2012. Different evolutionary histories underlie congruent species richness gradients of birds and mammals. Journal of Biogeography. Vol: 39(5). Pages 825-841. (Online version)
Journal Article Mathieu, Jerome; Davies, T. Jonathan. 2014. Glaciation as an historical filter of below-ground biodiversity. Journal of Biogeography. Vol: 41(6). Pages 1204-1214.
Journal Article Wiens, John; Ackerly, David D.; Allen, Andrew P.; Anacker, Brian L.; Buckley, Lauren B.; Cornell, Howard V.; Damschen, Ellen I.; Davies, T. Jonathan; Grytnes, John A.; Harrison, Sandy P.; Hawkins, Bradford A.; Holt, Robert D.; McCain, Christy M.; Stephens, Patrick R. 2010. Niche conservatism as an emerging principle in ecology and conservation biology. Ecology Letters. Vol: 13. Pages 1310–1324.