Belowground carabid beetle diversity in the western Palaearctic: Effects of history and climate on range-restricted taxa (Coleoptera, Carabidae)

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Broad-scale patterns of subterranean diversity are a fascinating but neglected part of biodiversity research. Carabid beetles adapted to belowground habitats form a particularly species-rich part of the subterranean fauna. We studied large-scale diversity patterns of these belowground carabids across the western Palaearctic and evaluated potential impacts of historical and contemporary environmental conditions on the distribution of these taxa, using available species richness and environmental data at country level. Regression modelling and variation partitioning showed a strong relationship between species richness and range in elevation. Potential effects of climatic variables, mainly those related to ambient energy input, were much weaker. We discuss the implications of this combination of effects, which suggests, concordant with the absence of subterranean carabids in northern and highest richness in southern Europe, a strong prevailing influence of historical processes on current richness distributions of these taxa. Previous studies did not provide clear indications for such an influence. In contrast to more mobile and widespread carabid beetles,
dispersal limitation due to high adaptation of belowground carabids to subterranean habitats has probably hindered their re-colonization of former permafrost and glaciated regions. Hotspots of highest belowground diversity are located in regions with an assumed long-term stability of environmental conditions, correlating with patterns of other dispersal-limited taxa such as many endemic plants. Our study provides important new information in the discussion of potential determinants of the distinct geographic patterns of belowground diversity. Moreover, it contributes to a better understanding of range size related differences previously found in the distribution of diversity and environmental dependencies of widespread and range-restricted species within the highly diverse carabid beetles.
Original languageEnglish
Issue numberSPEC. ISSUE
Pages (from-to)461-474
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 20.05.2011

    Research areas

  • Biology - Cave fauna, Endogeic, Geographic range, Glaciations, Insects, Latitudinal gradient, Macroecology, Permafrost, Subterranean
  • Ecosystems Research