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The team reached this conclusion by applying statistical models to biological, geological and climatological datasets from across the globe. "In our models, we related the species richness of birds, mammals and amphibians to global datasets of temperature, precipitation, erosion rates, relief and soil composition," says Daniel Kissling who conducted the statistical analyses of the paper. "I was surprised to find not only the usual correlations with climate, but a significant relation between biodiversity, erosion history, relief and number of soil types," continues Kissling. While the study shows that this is evident globally, it also revealed that the relationship can vary depending on which mountain system is considered. "This regional variation in the importance of geological drivers was really unexpected," says Kissling.
The study further showed that geographic position (e.g. whether a mountain intercepts atmospheric currents or not) and the duration of mountain building process (young or old) are also important processes influencing biodiversity in mountains. On shorter geological time scales, Quaternary climatic fluctuations can also promote the creation of new species in mountains. "We suggests that the waxing and waning of glaciers, which has strongly reshaped the landscape and repeatedly connected and disconnected animal and plant populations, has played an important role for the creation of new mountain species," says Suzette Flantua who studied the effects of Quaternary climate change on mountain biodiversity in Latin America for her Ph.D. at the University of Amsterdam.
The advances in geological methods and the increasingly complete global data sets on climate, soils, erosion history, and species richness only now have made it possible to gain such comprehensive insights into the relation between mountain building and biodiversity. The scientists are optimistic that with the new methods and datasets, further insights into the complex relationship between biodiversity, climate and mountain building can be expected in the near future.
This article was first published as a press release by the University of Amsterdam.
READ MORE: Antonelli, A., Kissling, W.D., Flantua, S.G.A., Bermúdez, M.A., Mulch, A., Muellner-Riehl, A.N., Linder, H.P., Badgley, C., Fjeldså, J., Fritz, S.A., Rahbek, C. Herman, F., Hooghiemstra, H. & Hoorn, C. (2018): 'Geological and climatic influences on mountain biodiversity.' Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0236-z