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Biogeography of European land mammals shows environmentally distinct and spatially coherent clusters

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Abstract Aim 

To produce a spatial clustering of Europe on the basis of species occurrence data for the land mammal fauna. Location 

Europe defined by the following boundaries: 11°W, 32°E, 71°N, 35°N. Methods 

Presence/absence records of mammal species collected by the Societas Europaea Mammalogica with a resolution of 50 × 50 km were used in the analysis. After pre-processing, the data provide information on 124 species in 2183 grid cells. The data were clustered using the k-means and probabilistic expectation maximization (EM) clustering algorithms. The resulting geographical pattern of clusters was compared against climate variables and against an environmental stratification of Europe based on climate, geomorphology and soil characteristics (EnS). Results 

The mammalian presence/absence data divide naturally into clusters, which are highly connected spatially and most strongly determined by the small mammals with the highest grid cell incidence. The clusters reflect major physiographic and environmental features and differ significantly in the values of basic climate variables. The geographical pattern is a fair match for the EnS stratification and is robust between non-overlapping subsets of the data, such as trophic groups. Main conclusions 

The pattern of clusters is regarded as reflecting the spatial expression of biologically distinct, metacommunity-like entities influenced by deterministic forces ultimately related to the physical environment. Small mammals give the most spatially coherent clusters of any subgroup, while large mammals show stronger relationships to climate variables. The spatial pattern is mainly due to small mammals with high grid cell incidence and is robust to noise from other subsets. The results support the use of spatially resolved environmental reconstructions based on fossil mammal data, especially when based on species with the highest incidence.
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Keywords: Climate variables; Europe; clustering; mammalian fauna; metacommunity; presence/absence data; species distribution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geology and Institute of Biotechnology, PO Box 64, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FIN-00014, Finland

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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