A systematic review of global drivers of ant elevational diversity

Tim Szewczyk, Christy M. McCain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Ant diversity shows a variety of patterns across elevational gradients, though the patterns and drivers have not been evaluated comprehensively. In this systematic review and reanalysis, we use published data on ant elevational diversity to detail the observed patterns and to test the predictions and interactions of four major diversity hypotheses: thermal energy, the mid-domain effect, area, and the elevational climate model. Of sixty-seven published datasets from the literature, only those with standardized, comprehensive sampling were used. Datasets included both local and regional ant diversity and spanned 80° in latitude across six biogeographical provinces. We used a combination of simulations, linear regressions, and non-parametric statistics to test multiple quantitative predictions of each hypothesis. We used an environmentally and geometrically constrained model as well as multiple regression to test their interactions. Ant diversity showed three distinct patterns across elevations: most common were hump-shaped mid-elevation peaks in diversity, followed by low-elevation plateaus and monotonic decreases in the number of ant species. The elevational climate model, which proposes that temperature and precipitation jointly drive diversity, and area were partially supported as independent drivers. Thermal energy and the mid-domain effect were not supported as primary drivers of ant diversity globally. The interaction models supported the influence of multiple drivers, though not a consistent set. In contrast to many vertebrate taxa, global ant elevational diversity patterns appear more complex, with the best environmental model contingent on precipitation levels. Differences in ecology and natural history among taxa may be crucial to the processes influencing broad-scale diversity patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0155404
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2016


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