We sought to understand the role that water availability (expressed as an aridity index) plays in determining regional and global patterns of richness and evenness, and in turn how these water availability-diversity relationships may result in different richness-evenness relationships at regional and global scales. We examined relationships between water availability, richness and evenness for eight grassy biomes spanning broad water availability gradients on five continents. Our study found that relationships between richness and water availability switched from positive for drier (South Africa, Tibet and USA) vs. negative for wetter (India) biomes, though were not significant for the remaining biomes. In contrast, only the India biome showed a significant relationship between water availability and evenness, which was negative. Globally, the richness-water availability relationship was hump-shaped, however, not significant for evenness. At the regional scale, a positive richness-evenness relationship was found for grassy biomes in India and Inner Mongolia, China. In contrast, this relationship was weakly concave-up globally. These results suggest that different, independent factors are determining patterns of species richness and evenness in grassy biomes, resulting in differing richness-evenness relationships at regional and global scales. As a consequence, richness and evenness may respond very differently across spatial gradients to anthropogenic changes, such as climate change.
Keywords: Climate; Diversity; Grasslands; Plant species richness; Precipitation.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.