In a new paper out in the journal Ecography, Falko Buschke tried to explain the distribution patterns of all terrestrial vertebrates that occur in sub Sahara Africa using environmental variables and spatial dispersal related variables.
He found that when you map Africa based on how much variation is explained by dispersal based processes vs. environmental niche based filtering, you can see the contours of the biogeographic regions. This suggests that community structuring processes differ among regions within biogeographic realms.
He also showed that corrections for range size are necessary to extract ecologically meaningful patterns from variation partitioning results.
Finally, he found that unexplained variation was highest in species with small distributions… which is worrying from a conservation perspective as these are often threatened. While we can quite accurately predict distributions of widespread animals, we don’t know very well why certain rarer species are range restricted.
An African Black Rhino. One of the species in Falko’s database.