Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Swiss Institute of Dryland Environmental and Energy Research, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer Campus, 84990, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel. [Email]
We studied the effects of variation in environmental, host-associated and spatial factors on variation in compositional, phylogenetic/taxonomic and functional facets of beta-diversity in fleas and gamasid mites parasitic on small mammals and asked whether (a) the importance of these factors as drivers of beta-diversity differs among its multiple facets and (b) the effects of variation in environment, hosts and space on beta-diversity variation differ between the two ectoparasite taxa. To understand the relative effects of each group of predictors, we used a distance-based redundancy analysis and variation partitioning. The greatest portions of variation in the compositional beta-diversity of fleas were equally explained by host-associated and spatial predictors, whereas variation in host species composition contributed the most to variation in the compositional beta-diversity of mites. Variation in the phylogenetic (i.e. based on phylogenetic tree) beta-diversity of fleas was mainly due to variation in the phylogenetic composition of host communities, while the taxonomic (i.e. based on Linnean taxonomy) beta-diversity of mites was influenced by environmental variation. Unique contributions of spatial and environmental variation explained most of the variation in functional beta-diversity and its species replacement (= turnover) component (i.e. beta-diversity explained by replacement of species alone) in fleas and mites, respectively. Variation in the richness difference component (i.e. beta-diversity explained by species loss/gain alone) of functional beta-diversity was mainly affected by either variation in the functional composition of host assemblages (fleas) or its joint action with environmental variables (mites). We conclude that the pattern of the relative effects of environmental, host-associated and spatial factors on beta-diversity is context-dependent and may differ among different facets of beta-diversity, among different beta-diversity components and also among taxa dependent on biological affinities.