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The influence of spatial scale on cross-taxon congruence patterns and prediction accuracy of species richness

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A comparison of species richness patterns of butterflies and birds was made using data from two grids of squares (small squares 137.5 km on a side and large squares 275 km on a side) covering western North America. Using geostatistical procedures, we found that the spatial patterns of species richness of these two taxa were related. The influence of grain size on the strength of this relationship was investigated by analysing the two data sets. For both data sets, the number of butterfly species in a square was a statistically significant predictor of the corresponding number of bird species. However, cross-validation techniques showed that the marginal improvement in prediction accuracy due to including butterflies as a predictor was greater in the large-square data. We explored the effect of areal extent on cross-taxon congruencies by investigating species richness patterns in four subsets of the small-square data. In regions with smaller areal extent, the cross-taxon congruence patterns were not substantially different from the pattern found in the full data set. Finally, using data-splitting techniques, we explored the relationships between prediction accuracy of species richness, sample size, areal extent of the sample, and grain size.

Keywords: Birds; butterflies; geostatistics; scale; spatial autocorrelations

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Department of Biology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287–1501, U.S.A. Email:, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 1999


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