Contributions to Zoology, 77 (2) - 2008Mansour Aliabadian; Ronald Sluys; Cees S. Roselaar; Vincent Nijman: Species diversity and endemism: testing the mid-domain effect on species richness patterns of songbirds in the Palearctic Region

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Explanation of the spatial distribution patterns in species richness, and especially those of small-ranged species (endemics), bears relevance for studies on evolution and speciation, as well as for conservation management. We test a geometric constraint model, the mid-domain effect (MDE), as a possible explanation for spatial patterns of species richness in Palearctic songbirds (Passeriformes), with an emphasis on the patterns of small-ranged species. We calculated species richness based on digitised distribution maps of phylogenetic species of songbirds endemic to the Palearctic region. Data were plotted and analyzed over a one degree longitude equal area map of the Palearctic Region, with a grid cell area of 4062 km². The emergent biogeographic patterns were analysed with WORLDMAP software. Comparison of the observed richness pattern among 2401 phylogenetic taxa of songbirds in the Palearctic Region with the predictions of a fully stochastic bi-dimensional MDE model revealed that this model has limited empirical support for overall species richness of Palearctic songbirds. Major hotspots were located south of the area where MDE predicted the highest species-richness, while some of the observed coldspots were in the centre of the Palearctic Region. Although small-ranged species are often found in areas with the highest species richness, MDE models have a very restricted explanatory power for the observed species-richness pattern in small-ranged species. Regions with a high number of small-ranged species (endemism hotspots) may contain a unique set of environmental conditions, unrelated to the shape or size of the domain, allowing a multitude of species to co-exist.