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.
Project description:The study of elevational diversity gradients dates back to the foundation of biogeography. Although elevational patterns of plant and animal diversity have been studied for centuries, such patterns have not been reported for microorganisms and remain poorly understood. Here, in an effort to assess the generality of elevational diversity patterns, we examined soil bacterial and plant diversity along an elevation gradient. To gain insight into the forces that structure these patterns, we adopted a multifaceted approach to incorporate information about the structure, diversity, and spatial turnover of montane communities in a phylogenetic context. We found that observed patterns of plant and bacterial diversity were fundamentally different. While bacterial taxon richness and phylogenetic diversity decreased monotonically from the lowest to highest elevations, plants followed a unimodal pattern, with a peak in richness and phylogenetic diversity at mid-elevations. At all elevations bacterial communities had a tendency to be phylogenetically clustered, containing closely related taxa. In contrast, plant communities did not exhibit a uniform phylogenetic structure across the gradient: they became more overdispersed with increasing elevation, containing distantly related taxa. Finally, a metric of phylogenetic beta-diversity showed that bacterial lineages were not randomly distributed, but rather exhibited significant spatial structure across the gradient, whereas plant lineages did not exhibit a significant phylogenetic signal. Quantifying the influence of sample scale in intertaxonomic comparisons remains a challenge. Nevertheless, our findings suggest that the forces structuring microorganism and macroorganism communities along elevational gradients differ.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Understanding altitudinal patterns of biological diversity and their underlying mechanisms is critically important for biodiversity conservation in mountainous regions. The contribution of area to plant diversity patterns is widely acknowledged and may mask the effects of other determinant factors. In this context, it is important to examine altitudinal patterns of corrected taxon richness by eliminating the area effect. Here we adopt two methods to correct observed taxon richness: a power-law relationship between richness and area, hereafter "method 1"; and richness counted in equal-area altitudinal bands, hereafter "method 2". We compare these two methods on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, which is the nearest large-scale altitudinal gradient to the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere. RESULTS:We find that seed plant species richness, genus richness, family richness, and species richness of trees, shrubs, herbs and Groups I-III (species with elevational range size <150, between 150 and 500, and >500 m, respectively) display distinct hump-shaped patterns along the equal-elevation altitudinal gradient. The corrected taxon richness based on method 2 (TRcor2) also shows hump-shaped patterns for all plant groups, while the one based on method 1 (TRcor1) does not. As for the abiotic factors influencing the patterns, mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation, and mid-domain effect explain a larger part of the variation in TRcor2 than in TRcor1. CONCLUSIONS:In conclusion, for biodiversity patterns on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, method 2 preserves the significant influences of abiotic factors to the greatest degree while eliminating the area effect. Our results thus reveal that although the classical method 1 has earned more attention and approval in previous research, method 2 can perform better under certain circumstances. We not only confirm the essential contribution of method 1 in community ecology, but also highlight the significant role of method 2 in eliminating the area effect, and call for more application of method 2 in further macroecological studies.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:In mountain plant populations, local adaptation has been described as one of the main responses to climate warming, allowing plants to persist under stressful conditions. This is especially the case for marginal populations at their lowest elevation, as they are highly vulnerable. Adequate levels of genetic diversity are required for selection to take place, while high levels of altitudinal gene flow are seen as a major limiting factor potentially precluding local adaptation processes. Thus, a compromise between genetic diversity and gene flow seems necessary to guarantee persistence under oncoming conditions. It is therefore critical to determine if gene flow occurs preferentially between mountains at similar altitudinal belts, promoting local adaptation at the lowest populations, or conversely along altitude within each mountain. METHODS:Microsatellite markers were used to unravel genetic diversity and population structure, inbreeding and gene flow of populations at two nearby altitudinal gradients of Silene ciliata, a Mediterranean high-mountain cushion plant. KEY RESULTS:Genetic diversity and inbreeding coefficients were similar in all populations. Substantial gene flow was found both along altitudinal gradients and horizontally within each elevation belt, although greater values were obtained along altitudinal gradients. Gene flow may be responsible for the homogeneous levels of genetic diversity found among populations. Bayesian cluster analyses also suggested that shifts along altitudinal gradients are the most plausible scenario. CONCLUSIONS:Past population shifts associated with glaciations and interglacial periods in temperate mountains may partially explain current distributions of genetic diversity and population structure. In spite of the predominance of gene flow along the altitudinal gradients, local genetic differentiation of one of the lower populations together with the detection of one outlier locus might support the existence of different selection forces at low altitudes.
Project description:More than 200 years ago, Alexander von Humboldt reported that tropical plant species richness decreased with increasing elevation and decreasing temperature. Surprisingly, coordinated patterns in plant, bacterial, and fungal diversity on tropical mountains have not yet been observed, despite the central role of soil microorganisms in terrestrial biogeochemistry and ecology. We studied an Andean transect traversing 3.5 km in elevation to test whether the species diversity and composition of tropical forest plants, soil bacteria, and fungi follow similar biogeographical patterns with shared environmental drivers. We found coordinated changes with elevation in all three groups: species richness declined as elevation increased, and the compositional dissimilarity among communities increased with increased separation in elevation, although changes in plant diversity were larger than in bacteria and fungi. Temperature was the dominant driver of these diversity gradients, with weak influences of edaphic properties, including soil pH. The gradients in microbial diversity were strongly correlated with the activities of enzymes involved in organic matter cycling, and were accompanied by a transition in microbial traits towards slower-growing, oligotrophic taxa at higher elevations. We provide the first evidence of coordinated temperature-driven patterns in the diversity and distribution of three major biotic groups in tropical ecosystems: soil bacteria, fungi, and plants. These findings suggest that interrelated and fundamental patterns of plant and microbial communities with shared environmental drivers occur across landscape scales. These patterns are revealed where soil pH is relatively constant, and have implications for tropical forest communities under future climate change.
Project description:Background:The study of altitudinal gradients provides insights about species diversity, distribution patterns and related drivers. The Magellanic sub-Antarctic ecoregion has a steep elevational gradient, peaking at around 1,000 m a.s.l., and marked changes in temperature and landscape composition can be observed over relatively short distances. Methods:This study assessed freshwater macroinvertebrate diversity associated with lakes and ponds along the altitudinal gradient of a Magellanic sub-Antarctic watershed. Results:A monotonic decline in species richness was observed with increasing elevation, with simpler and more even community composition at higher altitude. This pattern differs from the mid-peak trend found in streams of the same watershed. Functional feeding group structure also diminished with increasing elevation. Discussion:The study provides a descriptive baseline of macroinvertebrate community structure associated with lentic freshwater ecosystems in the Magellanic sub-Antarctic ecoregion, and confirms that elevation has substantial effects on community structure, function and environmental features, even in these relatively low elevation mountain ranges. The harsh environmental conditions of this ecoregion increase freshwater macroinvertebrate development time, as well as decreasing habitat availability and food supply, supporting simple but well adapted communities. In conjunction with previous research, this study provides a watershed-scale platform of information underpinning future long-term research in the region.
Project description:Mountains are considered excellent natural laboratories for studying the determinants of plant diversity at contrasting spatial scales. To gain insights into how plant diversity is structured at different spatial scales, we surveyed high mountain plant communities in the Chilean Andes where man-driven perturbations are rare. This was done along elevational gradients located at different latitudes taking into account factors that act at fine scales, including abiotic (potential solar radiation and soil quality) and biotic (species interactions) factors, and considering multiple spatial scales. Species richness, inverse of Simpson's concentration (Dequiv), beta-diversity and plant cover were estimated using the percentage of cover per species recorded in 34 sites in the different regions with contrasted climates. Overall, plant species richness, Dequiv and plant cover were lower in sites located at higher latitudes. We found a unimodal relationship between species richness and elevation and this pattern was constant independently of the regional climatic conditions. Soil quality decreased the beta-diversity among the plots in each massif and increased the richness, the Dequiv and cover. Segregated patterns of species co-occurrence were related to increases in richness, Dequiv and plant cover at finer scales. Our results showed that elevation patterns of alpine plant diversity remained constant along the regions although the mechanisms underlying these diversity patterns may differ among climatic regions. They also suggested that the patterns of plant diversity in alpine ecosystems respond to a series of factors (abiotic and biotic) that act jointly at different spatial scale determining the assemblages of local communities, but their importance can only be assessed using a multi-scale spatial approach.
Project description:Mount Kenya is of ecological importance in tropical east Africa due to the dramatic gradient in vegetation types that can be observed from low to high elevation zones. However, species richness and phylogenetic diversity of this mountain have not been well studied. Here, we surveyed distribution patterns for a total of 1,335 seed plants of this mountain and calculated species richness and phylogenetic diversity across seven vegetation zones. We also measured phylogenetic structure using the net relatedness index (NRI) and the nearest species index (NTI). Our results show that lower montane wet forest has the highest level of species richness, density, and phylogenetic diversity of woody plants, while lower montane dry forest has the highest level of species richness, density, and phylogenetic diversity in herbaceous plants. In total plants, NRI and NTI of four forest zones were smaller than three alpine zones. In woody plants, lower montane wet forest and upper montane forest have overdispersed phylogenetic structures. In herbaceous plants, NRI of Afro-alpine zone and nival zone are smaller than those of bamboo zone, upper montane forest, and heath zone. We suggest that compared to open dry forest, humid forest has fewer herbaceous plants because of the closed canopy of woody plants. Woody plants may have climate-dominated niches, whereas herbaceous plants may have edaphic and microhabitat-dominated niches. We also proposed lower and upper montane forests with high species richness or overdispersed phylogenetic structures as the priority areas in conservation of Mount Kenya and other high mountains in the Eastern Afro-montane biodiversity hotspot regions.
Project description:Although biodiversity gradients have been widely documented, the factors governing broad-scale patterns in species richness are still a source of intense debate and interest in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology. Here, we tested whether spatial hypotheses (species-area effect, topographic heterogeneity, mid-domain null model, and latitudinal effect) explain the pattern of diversity observed along the altitudinal gradient of Andean rain frogs of the genus Pristimantis. We compiled a gamma-diversity database of 378 species of Pristimantis from the tropical Andes, specifically from Colombia to Bolivia, using records collected above 500 m.a.s.l. Analyses were performed at three spatial levels: Tropical Andes as a whole, split in its two main domains (Northern and Central Andes), and split in its 11 main mountain ranges. Species richness, area, and topographic heterogeneity were calculated for each 500-m-width elevational band. Spatial hypotheses were tested using linear regression models. We examined the fit of the observed diversity to the mid-domain hypothesis using randomizations. The species richness of Pristimantis showed a hump-shaped pattern across most of the altitudinal gradients of the Tropical Andes. There was high variability in the relationship between area and species richness along the Tropical Andes. Correcting for area effects had little impact in the shape of the empirical pattern of biodiversity curves. Mid-domain models produced similar gradients in species richness relative to empirical gradients, but the fit varied among mountain ranges. The effect of topographic heterogeneity on species richness varied among mountain ranges. There was a significant negative relationship between latitude and species richness. Our findings suggest that spatial processes partially explain the richness patterns of Pristimantis frogs along the Tropical Andes. Explaining the current patterns of biodiversity in this hot spot may require further studies on other possible underlying mechanisms (e.g., historical, biotic, or climatic hypotheses) to elucidate the factors that limit the ranges of species along this elevational gradient.
Project description:Bird species richness is mediated by local, regional, and historical factors, for example, competition, environmental heterogeneity, contemporary, and historical climate. Here, we related bird species richness with phylogenetic relatedness of bird assemblages, plant species richness, topography, contemporary climate, and glacial-interglacial climate change to investigate the relative importance of these factors. This study was conducted in Inner Mongolia, an arid and semiarid region with diverse vegetation types and strong species richness gradients. The following associated variables were included as follows: phylogenetic relatedness of bird assemblages (Net Relatedness Index, NRI), plant species richness, altitudinal range, contemporary climate (mean annual temperature and precipitation, MAT and MAP), and contemporary-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) change in climate (change in MAT and change in MAP). Ordinary least squares linear, simultaneous autoregressive linear, and Random Forest models were used to assess the associations between these variables and bird species richness across this region. We found that bird species richness was correlated negatively with NRI and positively with plant species richness and altitudinal range, with no significant correlations with contemporary climate and glacial-interglacial climate change. The six best combinations of variables ranked by Random Forest models consistently included NRI, plant species richness, and contemporary-LGM change in MAT. Our results suggest important roles of local ecological factors in shaping the distribution of bird species richness across this semiarid region. Our findings highlight the potential importance of these local ecological factors, for example, environmental heterogeneity, habitat filtering, and biotic interactions, in biodiversity maintenance.
Project description:Highlighting patterns of distribution and assembly of plants involves the use of community phylogenetic analyses and complementary traditional taxonomic metrics. However, these patterns are often unknown or in dispute, particularly along elevational gradients, with studies finding different patterns based on elevation. We investigated how patterns of tree diversity and structure change along an elevation gradient using taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity metrics. We sampled 595 individuals (36 families; 53 genera; 88 species) across 15 plots along an elevational gradient (2440-3330 m) in Ecuador. Seventy species were sequenced for the rbcL and matK gene regions to generate a phylogeny. Species richness, Shannon-Weaver diversity, Simpson's Dominance, Simpson's Evenness, phylogenetic diversity (PD), mean pairwise distance (MPD), and mean nearest taxon distance (MNTD) were evaluated for each plot. Values were correlated with elevation and standardized effect sizes (SES) of MPD and MNTD were generated, including and excluding tree fern species, for comparisons across elevation. Taxonomic and phylogenetic metrics found that species diversity decreases with elevation. We also found that overall the community has a non-random phylogenetic structure, dependent on the presence of tree ferns, with stronger phylogenetic clustering at high elevations. Combined, this evidence supports the ideas that tree ferns have converged with angiosperms to occupy the same habitat and that an increased filtering of clades has led to more closely related angiosperm species at higher elevations.