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