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Altitudinal Patterns of Species Diversity and Phylogenetic Diversity across Temperate Mountain Forests of Northern China.


ABSTRACT: The spatial patterns of biodiversity and their underlying mechanisms have been an active area of research for a long time. In this study, a total of 63 samples (20m × 30m) were systematically established along elevation gradients on Mount Tai and Mount Lao, China. We explored altitudinal patterns of plant diversity in the two mountain systems. In order to understand the mechanisms driving current diversity patterns, we used phylogenetic approaches to detect the spatial patterns of phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic structure along two elevation gradients. We found that total species richness had a monotonically decreasing pattern and tree richness had a unimodal pattern along the elevation gradients in the two study areas. However, altitudinal patterns in shrub richness and herbs richness were not consistent on the two mountains. At low elevation, anthropogenic disturbances contributed to the increase of plant diversity, especially for shrubs and herbs in understory layers, which are more sensitive to changes in microenvironment. The phylogenetic structure of plant communities exhibited an inverted hump-shaped pattern along the elevation gradient on Mount Tai, which demonstrates that environmental filtering is the main driver of plant community assembly at high and low elevations and inter-specific competition may be the main driver of plant community assembly in the middle elevations. However, the phylogenetic structure of plant communities did not display a clear pattern on Mount Lao where the climate is milder. Phylogenetic beta diversity and species beta diversity consistently increased with increasing altitudinal divergence in the two study areas. However, the altitudinal patterns of species richness did not completely mirror phylogenetic diversity patterns. Conservation areas should be selected taking into consideration the preservation of high species richness, while maximizing phylogenetic diversity to improve the potential for diversification in the future.

SUBMITTER: Zhang W 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4959731 | BioStudies | 2016-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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