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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Traits mediate niches and co-occurrences of forest beetles in ways that differ among bioclimatic regions

Burner, Ryan C.; Stephan, Jorg G.; Drag, Lukas; Birkemoe, Tone; Muller, Joerg; Snall, Tord; Ovaskainen, Otso; Potterf, Maria; Siitonen, Juha; Skarpaas, Olav; Doerfler, Inken; Gossner, Martin M.; Schall, Peter; Weisser, Wolfgang W.; Sverdrup-Thygeson, Anne


Aim The aim of this study was to investigate the role of traits in beetle community assembly and test for consistency in these effects among several bioclimatic regions. We asked (1) whether traits predicted species' responses to environmental gradients (i.e. their niches), (2) whether these same traits could predict co-occurrence patterns and (3) how consistent were niches and the role of traits among study regions. Location Boreal forests in Norway and Finland, temperate forests in Germany. Taxon Wood-living (saproxylic) beetles. Methods We compiled capture records of 468 wood-living beetle species from the three regions, along with nine morphological and ecological species traits. Eight climatic and forest covariates were also collected. We used Bayesian hierarchical joint species distribution models to estimate the influence of traits and phylogeny on species' niches. We also tested for correlations between species associations and trait similarity. Finally, we compared species niches and the effects of traits among study regions. Results Traits explained some of the variability in species' niches, but their effects differed among study regions. However, substantial phylogenetic signal in species niches implies that unmeasured but phylogenetically structured traits have a stronger effect. Degree of trait similarity was correlated with species associations but depended idiosyncratically on the trait and region. Species niches were much more consistent-widespread taxa often responded similarly to an environmental gradient in each region. Main conclusions The inconsistent effects of traits among regions limit their current use in understanding beetle community assembly. Phylogenetic signal in niches, however, implies that better predictive traits can eventually be identified. Consistency of species niches among regions means niches may remain relatively stable under future climate and land use changes; this lends credibility to predictive distribution models based on future climate projections but may imply that species' scope for short-term adaptation is limited.


Bayesian joint species distribution models (JSDMs); climate change; Coleoptera; ecological traits; environmental gradients; HMSC; morphological traits; phylogeny; saproxylic beetles; species associations

Published in

Journal of Biogeography
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Burner, Ryan C.
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Swedish Species Information Centre
Drag, Lukas
University of Wurzburg
Birkemoe, Tone
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
Muller, Joerg
University of Wurzburg
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Swedish Species Information Centre
Ovaskainen, Otso
University of Helsinki
Potterf, Maria
University of Jyvaskyla
Siitonen, Juha
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)
Skarpaas, Olav
University of Oslo
Doerfler, Inken
Carl von Ossietzky Universitat Oldenburg
Gossner, Martin M.
ETH Zurich
Schall, Peter
University of Gottingen
Weisser, Wolfgang W.
Technical University of Munich
Sverdrup-Thygeson, Anne
Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

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