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Disentangling the effects of latitudinal and elevational gradients on bee, wasp, and ant diversity in an ancient Neotropical mountain range

Cite this dataset

Perillo, Lucas; Castro, Flávio; Solar, Ricardo; Neves, Frederico (2021). Disentangling the effects of latitudinal and elevational gradients on bee, wasp, and ant diversity in an ancient Neotropical mountain range [Dataset]. Dryad.


Aim: Ancient tropical mountains are megadiverse, yet little is known about the distribution of their species. We aimed to disentangle the effects of latitudinal and elevational gradients on the distribution of species of Aculeata and to understand the effects of climatic variables across different spatial scales of diversity (α, γ, and β-diversity). Location: Campo rupestre in the Espinhaço Mountain Range, Southeast Brazil. Taxon: Bees, wasps, and ants (Aculeata: Hymenoptera) Methods: We used a unique dataset built from sampling species of Aculeata at 24 study sites across 12 mountains, covering 1200 km from south to north and an elevational range of 1000 to 2000 m. We explored the elevational and latitudinal patterns of α (site), γ (mountain), and β-diversity among samples at each location (β Local). We also tested the effect of elevational range on β-diversity in each mountain (β Mountain) and, on a larger scale (β Regional), if β-diversity is influenced by geographical and environmental distances. Finally, we tested whether climatic variables underpin the observed patterns. Results: Latitude had no effect on diversity. We found a decrease in both site and mountain diversity and, only for bees, β Local increased with elevation. Climatic variables (temperature, wind, and precipitation) and their interactions were important drivers of diversity, with temperature being the most important. Finally, β Mountain increased with mountain elevation range, and β Regional increased with the geographical and environmental distances. Main conclusions: Our results showed that variation in species richness and composition across mountains is strongly associated with elevational gradient, which showed stronger climatic variation than latitudinal gradient. Therefore, despite having narrow elevational ranges, the biogeographical effects of tropical mountains drive high diversity. Facing global climate changes, this limited elevational gradient may limit species range shifts, leading to severe biodiversity losses.


Our study was conducted along a latitudinal gradient ranging from 12ºS to 20ºS and elevation ranging from 1000 to 2072 m in a standardized sampling, considering a single ecosystem: the campo rupestre. It is a neotropical grassland mosaic in association with azonal vegetation complexes on rocky outcrops, formally classified as old, climate-buffered, and infertile landscapes (OCBILs). The campo rupestre distribution is manly associated with Espinhaço Mountain Range surfaces (above 900 m, a mountainous formation that extends for more than 1200 km north-south, with east-west width rarely exceeding 100 km. We rely on a unique dataset of Aculeata sampled in 12 mountains, covering 1200 km from south to north (nine degrees of latitude) and an elevational range from 1000 m up to 2000 m. In each locality (n=12 mountains) we selected two sample sites at different elevations, always in campo rupestre ecosystem, to test the elevation effect: one at the mountain base (Lower site: 1100 m) and another one near the mountain summit (Upper site: ranging from 1300 to 2000 m). We installed five trap sets 200 m apart from each other at each elevation mountain site, totalling 120 trap sets. Each set was composed by one malaise trap (to capture flying Acuelata; exposed in the field for 14  hours), four Moericke traps (yellow pan traps to capture pollinators; 48 hours each), and four pitfall traps (to capture ground Aculeata; 48 hours each) totalling 17,280 malaise trap hours, 23,040 Moericke, and 23,040 pitfall trap hours within the 120 trap sets. Each locality was sampled once, during the rainy season (November to February between 2013 and 2016).


Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais, Award: APQ-01049-13

National Council for Scientific and Technological Development

Coordenação de Aperfeicoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior