RNDr. Andrej Mock, Ph.D.
Christian Komposch
RNDr. Vlastimil Růžička, CSc.
Macroecologists seek to identify drivers of community turnover (β-diversity) through broad spatial scales. However, the influence of local habitat features in driving broad-scale β-diversity patterns remains largely untested, owing to the objective challenges of associating local-scale variables to continental-framed datasets. We examined the relative contribution of local- versus broad-scale drivers of continental β-diversity patterns, using a uniquely suited dataset of cave-dwelling spider communities across Europe (35–70° latitude). Generalized dissimilarity modelling showed that geographical distance, mean annual temperature and size of the karst area in which caves occurred drove most of β-diversity, with differential contributions of each factor according to the level of subterranean specialization. Highly specialized communities were mostly influenced by geographical distance, while less specialized communities were mostly driven by mean annual temperature. Conversely, local-scale habitat features turned out to be meaningless predictors of community change, which emphasizes the idea of caves as the human accessible fraction of the extended network of fissures that more properly represents the elective habitat of the subterranean fauna. To the extent that the effect of local features turned to be inconspicuous, caves emerge as experimental model systems in which to study broad biological patterns without the confounding effect of local habitat features.