Patterns of species diversity and phylogenetic structure of vascular plants on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.


Large-scale patterns of species richness and the underlying mechanisms regulating these patterns have long been the central issues in biogeography and macroecology. Phylogenetic community structure is a result of combined effects of contemporary ecological interactions, environmental filtering, and evolutionary history, and it links community ecology with biogeography and trait evolution. The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau provides a good opportunity to test the influence of contemporary climate on shaping species richness because of its unique geological history, cold climate, and high biodiversity. In this study, based on high-resolution distributions of ˜9000 vascular plant species, we explored how species richness and phylogenetic structure of vascular plants correlate with climates on the highest (and species rich) plateau on the Earth. The results showed that most of the vascular plants were distributed on the eastern part of the plateau; there was a strong association between species richness and climate, even after the effects of habitat heterogeneity were controlled. However, the responses of richness to climate remarkably depended on life-forms. Richness of woody plants showed stronger climatic associations than that of herbaceous plants; energy and water availability together regulated richness pattern of woody plants; whereas water availability predominantly regulated richness pattern of herbaceous plants. The phylogenetic structure of vascular species clustered in most areas of the plateau, suggesting that rapid speciation and environment filtering dominated the assembly of communities on the plateau. We further propose that biodiversity conservation in this area should better take into account ecological features for different life-forms and phylogenetic lineages.

Ecology and evolution


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