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Spatial analyses of multi-trophic terrestrial vertebrate assemblages in Europe

Abstract : Aim: Although much has been said on the spatial distribution of taxonomic and phy-logenetic diversity of vertebrates, how this diversity interacts in food webs and how these interactions change across space are largely unknown. Here, we analysed the spatial distribution of tetrapod food webs and asked whether the variation in local food web structure is driven by random processes or by natural and anthropogenic factors. Location: Europe. Time period: Present. Major taxa studied: Tetrapods. Methods: We combined an expert-based food web (1,140 species and 70,601 links) of all European tetrapods with their respective spatial distributions. We mapped 17 different food web metrics representing complexity, chain length, vertical diversity and diet strategy across Europe and tested whether their distribution reflects the spatial structure of species richness using a null model of food web structure. To avoid multicollinearity issues, we defined composite descriptors of food web structure that we related to a set of environmental layers summarizing both natural and anthropogenic influences and tested their relative importance in explaining the spatial distribution of European terrestrial vertebrate food webs. Results: Of the 17 metrics, 10 showed a non-random spatial distribution across Europe and could be summarized along two major axes of variation in food web structure. The first was related to species richness, mean trophic level and the proportion of intermediate species, whereas the second was related to the connectance and proximity of species within the web. Both descriptors varied with latitudinal gradient. The best descriptors of food web structure were mean annual temperature and seasonality (negatively correlated with the first axis), and human footprint (positively correlated with the second axis). Main conclusions: We demonstrate the importance of climate and anthropogenic pressure in shaping the spatial structure of European tetrapod food webs.
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Joao Braga, Laura Pollock, Ceres Barros, Núria Galiana Ibañez, José Montoya, et al.. Spatial analyses of multi-trophic terrestrial vertebrate assemblages in Europe. Global Ecology and Biogeography, Wiley, 2019, 28 (11), pp.1636-1648. ⟨10.1111/geb.12981⟩. ⟨hal-02399915⟩

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