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Species niches, not traits, determine abundance and occupancy patterns: a multi-site synthesis

Citation

Marino, Nicholas et al. (2019), Species niches, not traits, determine abundance and occupancy patterns: a multi-site synthesis, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4mw6m906g

Abstract

 

Aim: Locally abundant species are usually widespread, and such pattern has been related to properties of the niches and traits of species. However, such explanations fail to account for the potential of traits to determine species niches, and often overlook statistical artifacts. Here we examine how trait distinctiveness determines species abilities to exploit either common habitats (niche position) or a range of habitats (niche breadth), and how niche position and breadth in turn affect abundance and occupancy. We also examine how statistical artifacts moderate these relations.
Location: Sixteen sites in the Neotropics.
Time period: 1993-2014.
Major taxa studied: Aquatic invertebrates from tank bromeliads.
Methods: We measured the environmental niche position and breadth of each species and calculated its trait distinctiveness, as the average trait difference with all other species at each site. Then, we used a combination of Structural Equations Models and a meta-analytic approach to test trait-niche relationships, and a null model to control for statistical artifacts.
Results: The trait distinctiveness of each species was unrelated to its niche properties, abundance, and occupancy. In contrast, niche position was the main predictor of abundance and occupancy; species that used the most common environmental conditions found across bromeliads were locally abundant and widespread. Contributions of niche breadth to such patterns were due to statistical artifacts, indicating that niche breadth effects may have been overestimated in previous studies.
Main conclusions: Our study reveals the generality of niche position in explaining one of the most common ecological patterns. The robustness of this result is underscored by the geographic extent of our study and our control of statistical artifacts. We call for a similar examination across other systems – an essential task to understanding the drivers of commonness across the tree of life.

Methods

A detailed description on how data was collected and processed is given in the main manuscript.

Usage Notes

column_name type description
location character name of the field site
visit_id numeric unique identifier for each sampling visit within a site
bwg_name character unique identifier for the species name
mean_local_abundance numeric mean local abundance of the species at occupied bromeliads
relative_occupancy numeric proportion of occupied bromeliads by the species
OMI numeric the niche position for a given species at a given site
Tol numeric the niche breadth for a given species at a given site
functional_distinctveness numeric the average difference in functional trait composition of a species given all other species in a site

Funding

Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Award: ANR-10-LABX-25-01

BPE-FAPESP, Award: 2016/01209-9

Royal Society, Award: NAF\R2\180791

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 301514/2017-8

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 307689/2014-0

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 312770/2014-6

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-0218039

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-0620910

USDA IITF, Award: 01-1G11120101-001

Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Award: AGR-210

Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Award: AGR-290

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 2014/04603-4

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 2016/09699-5

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 2013/0877

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 401345/2014-9