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Bat and bird diversity along independent gradients of latitude and tree composition in European forests

Abstract

Species assemblages are shaped by local and continental-scale processes that are seldom investigated together, due to the lack of surveys along independent gradients of latitude and habitat types. Our study investigated changes in the effects of forest composition and structure on bat and bird diversity across Europe. We compared the taxonomic and functional diversity of bat and bird assemblages in 209 mature forest plots spread along gradients of forest composition and vertical structure, replicated in 6 regions spanning from the Mediterranean to the boreal biomes. Species richness and functional evenness of both bat and bird communities were affected by the interactions between latitude and forest composition and structure. Bat and bird species richness increased with broadleaved tree cover in temperate and especially in boreal regions but not in the Mediterranean where they increased with conifer abundance. Bat species richness was lower in forests with smaller trees and denser understorey only in northern regions. Bird species richness was not affected by forest structure. Bird functional evenness increased in younger and denser forests. Bat functional evenness was also influenced by interactions between latitude and understorey structure, increasing in temperate forests but decreasing in the Mediterranean. Covariation between bat and bird abundances also shifted across Europe, from negative in southern forests to positive in northern forests. Our results suggest that community assembly processes in bats and birds of European forests are predominantly driven by abundance and accessibility of feeding resources, i.e., insect prey, and their changes across both forest types and latitudes.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to FunDivEurope site managers and field teams for assistance in fieldwork. We also thank Inge van Halder, Fabrice Vetillard and Bastien Castagneyrol for help and advice at various stages of this study. JYB received financial support from the CIRCE project under the AU Ideas program. The research reported here was conducted as part of the European FunDivEUROPE project, which received funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program under the Grant Agreement No. 265171.

Author contribution statement

YC, LB, KV and HJ designed the study, YC, LB, JYB, EA and JN performed the field work, YC, LB and JYB analysed the data, YC, LB, JYB and HJ wrote the manuscript and all authors contributed to editing the final version.

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Correspondence to Hervé Jactel.

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Communicated by David N. Koons.

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Charbonnier, Y.M., Barbaro, L., Barnagaud, JY. et al. Bat and bird diversity along independent gradients of latitude and tree composition in European forests. Oecologia 182, 529–537 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-016-3671-9

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Keywords

  • Avian communities
  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeography
  • Chiroptera
  • Insectivorous vertebrates
  • Functional evenness
  • Understorey structure