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Species partitioning in a temperate mountain chain: Segregation by habitat vs. interspecific competition

AuthorsBastianelli, Giula; Wintle, Brendan A.; Martin, Elizabeth H.; Seoane Pinilla, Javier; Laiolo, Paola
KeywordsGeographical zonation
Interspecific interference
Joint species distribution modelling
Territorial intrusion experiments
Issue Date19-Mar-2017
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
CitationEcology and evolution 7(8): 2685-2696 (2017)
AbstractDisentangling the relative influence of the environment and biotic interactions in determining species coexistence patterns is a major challenge in ecology. The zonation occurring along elevation gradients, or at bioclimatic contact zones, offers a good opportunity to improve such understanding because the small scale at which the partitioning occurs facilitates inference based on experiments and ecological modelling. We studied the influence of abiotic gradients, habitat types, and interspecific competition in determining the spatial turnover between two pipit and two bunting species in NW Spain. We explored two independent lines of evidence to draw inference about the relative importance of environment and biotic interactions in driving range partitioning along elevation, latitude, and longitude. We combined occurrence data with environmental data to develop joint species distribution models (JSDM), in order to attribute co‐occurrence (or exclusion) to shared (or divergent) environmental responses and to interactions (attraction or exclusion). In the same region, we tested for interference competition by means of playback experiments in the contact zone. The JSDMs highlighted different responses for the two species pairs, although we did not find direct evidence of interspecific aggressiveness in our playback experiments. In pipits, partitioning was explained by divergent climate and habitat requirements and also by the negative correlations between species not explained by the environment. This significant residual correlation may reflect forms of competition others than direct interference, although we could not completely exclude the influence of unmeasured environmental predictors. When bunting species co‐occurred, it was because of shared habitat preferences, and a possible limitation to dispersal might cause their partitioning. Our results indicate that no single mechanism dominates in driving the distribution of our study species, but rather distributions are determined by the combination of many small forces including biotic and abiotic determinants of niche, whose relative strengths varied among species.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2883
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