Exploring the Interplay Between Local and Regional Drivers of Distribution of a Subterranean Organism
Caves are excellent model systems to study the effects of abiotic factors on species distributions due to their selective conditions. Different ecological factors have been shown to affect species distribution depending on the scale of analysis, whether regional or local. The interplay between local and regional factors in explaining the spatial distribution of cave-dwelling organisms is poorly understood. Using the troglophilic subterranean spider Artema nephilit (Araneae: Pholcidae) as a
... holcidae) as a model organism, we investigated whether similar environmental predictors drive the species distribution at these two spatial scales. At the local scale, we monitored the abundance of the spiders and measured relevant environmental features in 33 caves along the Jordan Rift Valley. We then extended the analysis to a regional scale, investigating the drivers of the distribution using species distribution models. We found that similar ecological factors determined the distribution at both local and regional scales for A. nephilit. At a local scale, the species was found to preferentially occupy the outermost, illuminated, and warmer sectors of caves. Similarly, mean annual temperature, annual temperature range, and solar radiation were the most important drivers of its regional distribution. By investigating these two spatial scales simultaneously, we showed that it was possible to achieve an in-depth understanding of the environmental conditions that governs subterranean species distribution.