Aim: Patterns of diversity along elevational gradients are driven by species characteristics but remain poorly understood. Filling this gap is imperative given the deteriorating conservation status of anurans worldwide. Here, we examine frog diversity and species composition along a sharp subtropical elevational gradient and assess the degree to which these are determined by environmental and spatial predictors.
Location: An extensive southern Brazilian Atlantic Forest elevational gradient ranging from 300 to 1,800 m above sea level.
Methods: We sampled 38 ponds and used structural equation modelling to examine the direct and indirect effects of area, climate, habitat amount, habitat complexity and productivity on frog species richness and abundance. We also applied joint species distribution models to investigate the importance of these predictors on frog species composition using species distribution and co-occurrence along the elevational gradient.
Results: We recorded 12,636 individuals of 41 frog species. Frog species richness was highest at intermediate elevations, showing a hump-shaped pattern. Frog abundance was highest at lowlands and decreased towards higher elevations. We found support for only the habitat amount hypothesis in explaining overall species richness. Although temperature had a positive influence on productivity and frog abundance, neither predictors were related to species richness. Species composition diverged markedly between lowland and highland frog assemblages, which was mainly attributed to differences in ambient temperature.
Main conclusion: Elevations containing more extensive natural habitat areas retained the most species-rich frog assemblages. The mid-elevational peak is likely attributed to lowland habitat (1,400 masl). The entire elevational gradient is, however, critical in maintaining anuran species diversity as lowland assemblages are distinct from those at mid- to high elevations. Our study also shows that anthropogenic habitat loss has a decisive effect on montane frog diversity, reinforcing the need to effectively protect these areas.
- altitudinal gradient
- Atlantic Forest
- elevational patterns
- environmental filter
- habitat integrity
- ATLANTIC FOREST
- MOUNTAIN BIODIVERSITY
- CONSERVATION STATUS
- REPRODUCTIVE MODES
- R PACKAGE