Global reef fish richness gradients emerge from divergent and scale-dependent component changes

Shane A. Blowes*, Jonathan Belmaker, Jonathan M. Chase

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biodiversity varies from place to place due to environmental and historical factors. To improve our understanding of how history and the environment influence observed patterns, we need to address the limitations of the most commonly used biodiversity metric, species richness. Here, we show that scale-dependent dissections of species richness into components of total abundance, species relative abundances and spatial aggregations of species reveal that two well-known biogeographic reef fish species richness gradients emerge from very different underlying component patterns. Latitudinal richness is underpinned by scale-independent patterns of total and relative abundances, suggesting ecological constraints scale up to determine abundances within communities. In contrast, the longitudinal gradient of species richness typically attributed to historical biogeography onlyemerges at the largest scale and is accompanied by a similar pattern of relative abundances, suggesting that site-to-site compositional variation leading to species aggregation (i.e. a component of b-diversity) underlies this gradient. Examining relationships among the components that underpin biodiversity gradients reveals new patterns that can better identify processes influencing patterns of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170947
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1867
StatePublished - 29 Nov 2017


  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeography
  • Macroecology


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