Aim A fundamental question in macroecology centres around understanding the relationship between species’ local abundance and their distribution in geographical and climatic space (i.e. the multi-dimensional climatic space or climatic niche). Here, we tested three macroecological hypotheses that link local abundance to the following range properties: (a) the abundance–range size relationship, (b) the abundance–range centre relationship and (c) the abundance–suitability relationship.
Taxon Vascular plants.
Methods Distribution range maps were extracted from the Chorological Database Halle to derive information on the range and niche sizes of 517 European vascular plant species. To estimate local abundance, we assessed samples from 744,513 vegetation plots in the European Vegetation Archive, where local species’ abundance is available as plant cover per plot. We then calculated the ‘centrality’, that is, the distance between the location of the abundance observation and each species’ range centre in geographical and climatic space. The climatic suitability of plot locations was estimated using coarse-grain species distribution models (SDMs). The relationships between centrality or climatic suitability with abundance was tested using linear models and quantile regression. We summarized the overall trend across species’ regression slopes from linear models and quantile regression using a meta-analytical approach.
Results We did not detect any positive relationships between a species’ mean local abundance and the size of its geographical range or climatic niche. Contrasting yet significant correlations were detected between abundance and centrality or climatic suitability among species.
Main conclusions Our results do not provide unequivocal support for any of the relationships tested, demonstrating that determining properties of species’ distributions at large grains and extents might be of limited use for predicting local abundance, including current SDM approaches. We conclude that environmental factors influencing individual performance and local abundance are likely to differ from those factors driving plant species’ distribution at coarse resolution and broad geographical extents.