Quantifying multiple-site compositional turnover in an Afrotemperate forest, using zeta diversity
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Background: Species turnover is typically measured by partitioning diversity components into alpha and pairwise beta diversity. However, alpha and beta components cannot express the full spectrum of multiple-site compositional turnover. To this end, zeta diversity has been proposed as an extended framework to allow complete biodiversity partitioning and to measure multiple-site species turnover. We use a zeta-diversity framework to explore the turnover and potential community assembly processes of an African Montane Forest. Methods: Using a 20 m grid, we explore the species turnover in a 4.55 ha forest plot located in the Garden Route National Park of South Africa, with 47 and 27 canopy and sub-canopy tree species in the regional pool. We first calculate how zeta diversity declines and how the probability of retention of species with particular occupancies changes with increasing zeta orders (i.e. the number of sites [grid cells] involved in the calculation). Using null models with row sums and column sums constrained respectively, we explore whether species turnover is driven by mechanisms of ecological differences (species-specific occupancies) or habitat heterogeneity (site-specific alpha diversity and thus environmental filters). Results: The decline of zeta diversity with zeta order followed a power law; that is, the probability of retention increased with species occupancies, suggesting common species being more likely to be discovered in extra sites. The null model retaining row sums (species’ occupancy) of the species-by-site matrix recreated perfectly the decline of zeta diversity, while the null model of habitat heterogeneity (retaining column sums) was rejected. This suggests that mechanisms driving species-specific occupancies (i.e. ecological differences between species) dictate the multi-site species turnover in the community. The spatial patterns of zeta diversity revealed little spatial structuring forces, supporting a fine-grain structure in these southern Cape forests. Conclusions: The framework of zeta diversity revealed mechanisms driving the large discrepancies in the occupancy among species that are behind the species turnover in the African Montane forest plot. Future studies could further link species turnover to spatial distance decay. Environmental filters and temporal turnover from landscape demography could bring a cohesive understanding of community assembly in these unique forest ecosystems.
- RESEARCH: Hui C