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Body size determines the strength of the latitudinal diversity gradient

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In most groups of organisms, the species richness decreases from the tropics to the poles. The mechanisms causing this latitudinal diversity gradient are still controversial. We present data from a comprehensive weighted meta-analysis on the strength of the latitudinal gradient in relation to body size. We sampled literature data on the correlation between species richness and latitude for a variety of organisms, ranging from trees to protozoa. In addition, own data on the presence of large-scale diversity patterns for diatoms were included, both for local and regional species richness. The strength of the latitudinal gradient was positively correlated to the size of the organisms. Strongest decreases of species richness to the poles was found for large organisms like trees and vertebrates, whereas meiofauna, protozoa and diatoms showed weak or no correlations between species richness and latitude. These results imply that latitudinal gradients are shaped by non-equilibrium (regional) processes and are persistent under conditions of dispersal limitation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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