Research Article: Integrating the effects of latitude and altitude on the spatial differentiation of plant community diversity in a mountainous ecosystem in China

Date Published: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Manhou Xu, Li Ma, Yanyan Jia, Min Liu, Judi Hewitt.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174231

Abstract

Varying patterns of plant community diversity along geographical gradients are a significant topic in biodiversity research. Here, to explore the integrated effects of latitude and altitude on the plant community diversity in a mountainous ecosystem, we set Guancen Mountain in the northern section, Guandi Mountain in the middle section, and Wulu Mountain in the southern section of the Lvliang Mountains as study areas, and the plant community diversity (basal diameter and height of tree and species diversity indices of shrub and herb) was measured horizontally at different latitude gradients and vertically at different altitude gradients in late July 2015. The results showed that (1) the trees were taller and wider at the middle latitude and higher altitude with a stronger spatial heterogeneity in the structures along the latitudinal and altitudinal gradients. The evergreen tree growth preceded that of the deciduous trees in the higher latitude and lower altitude regions, whereas the deciduous tree growth preceded that of the evergreen trees in the middle latitude and higher altitude regions. (2) Shrubs and herbs tended to grow well in the lower latitude and middle-lower altitude regions. The shrubs had a larger species diversity at lower latitude and lower altitude, but the species diversity of the herbs was not sensitive to the influences of the latitudinal and altitudinal gradients. With the latitude and altitude increasing, perennial herbs tended to grow well at higher latitude and higher altitude, while annual herbs tended to thrive at the middle latitude and lower altitude. In conclusion, environmental deviations caused by latitudinal and altitudinal gradients had great influences on the spatial distributions of the plant community diversity in the Lvliang Mountains.

Partial Text

Biodiversity is not only a fundamental component of ecological studies but also a hot topic in global change research. It has great importance in maintaining the global ecological balance and promoting human sustainable development [1]. Over the last 100 years, the varying patterns of species diversity along geographical gradients has been a significant topic in biodiversity research [2].

Under the dual effects of climatic change and human activities, the effects of the latitude and altitude decreased, the number of vegetation types was reduced, and the plant life forms became simple from the northern Guancen Mountain to the southern Wulu Mountain in the Lvliang Mountains.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174231

 

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