In the study of diversity patterns, the Mid-domain effect (MDE), which explains gradients in diversity solely on the basis of geometric constraints, has emerged as a null-model against which other hypotheses can be tested. The effectiveness, measured by its predictive power, of these MDE models appears to depend on the size of the study area and the range-sizes of the taxa considered. Here we test the predictive power of MDE on the species richness patterns of birds and assess its effectiveness for a variety of species range sizes. We digitised distribution maps of 889 species of songbird endemic to the Palearctic, and analysed the emergent biogeographic patterns with WORLDMAP software. MDE had a predictive power of 20% when all songbirds were included. Major hotspots were located south of the area where MDE predicted the highest species-richness, and some of the observed coldspots were in the centre of the Palearctic, contradicting the predictions of the MDE. MDE had little explanatory power (3-19%) for all but the largest range sizes, whereas MDE performed equal or better for the large-ranged species (20-34%) compared to the overall model. Overall MDE did not accurate explain species-richness patterns in Palearctic songbirds. Subsets of larger-range species did not always have a larger predictive power than smaller-range species or the overall model. Despite their low predictive power, MDE models can have a role to play in explaining biogeographic patterns but other variables need to be included in the model as well.

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Contributions to Zoology

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Naturalis journals & series

Aliabadian, M., Roselaar, C. S., Sluys, R., & Nijman, V. (2007). Low predictive power of mid-domain effect to explain geographic species richness patterns in Palearctic songbirds. Contributions to Zoology, 76(3), 197–204.