Temperature shapes opposing latitudinal gradients of plant taxonomic and phylogenetic β diversity

Ian R. McFadden, Brody Sandel, Constantinos Tsirogiannis, Naia Morueta-Holme, Jens Christian Svenning, Brian J. Enquist, Nathan J.B. Kraft

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Latitudinal and elevational richness gradients have received much attention from ecologists but there is little consensus on underlying causes. One possible proximate cause is increased levels of species turnover, or β diversity, in the tropics compared to temperate regions. Here, we leverage a large botanical dataset to map taxonomic and phylogenetic β diversity, as mean turnover between neighboring 100 × 100 km cells, across the Americas and determine key climatic drivers. We find taxonomic and tip-weighted phylogenetic β diversity is higher in the tropics, but that basal-weighted phylogenetic β diversity is highest in temperate regions. Supporting Janzen's ‘mountain passes’ hypothesis, tropical mountainous regions had higher β diversity than temperate regions for taxonomic and tip-weighted metrics. The strongest climatic predictors of turnover were average temperature and temperature seasonality. Taken together, these results suggest β diversity is coupled to latitudinal richness gradients and that temperature is a major driver of plant community composition and change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1126-1135
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Americas
  • Jaccard dissimilarity
  • New World
  • UniFrac
  • biome assembly
  • elevation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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