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Environmental heterogeneity–species richness relationships from a global perspective

Abstract

Spatial environmental heterogeneity (EH) is considered one of the most important factors promoting species richness, but no general consent about the EH–richness relationship exists so far. This is because research methods and study settings vary widely, and because non-significant and negative associations have also been reported. My thesis provides a comprehensive review of the different measurements and terminologies of EH used in the literature, and presents strong quantitative evidence of a generally positive relationship between biotic and abiotic EH and species richness of terrestrial plants and animals from landscape to global extents. In a meta-analysis and a subsequent case study comparing multiple EH measures and their association with mammal species richness worldwide, I furthermore reveal that the outcome of EH–richness studies depends strongly on study design, including both the EH measure chosen and spatial scale. My research contributes to a better understanding of the EH–richness relationship, while identifying future research needs.

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