Biodiversity Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (1): 3-10.doi: 10.17520/biods.2016220

• Orginal Article • Previous Article     Next Article

Patterns and determinants of species similarity decay of forest communities in the western Qinling Mountains

Mingfei Zhao1, 2, Guoyi Wang1, 2, Kaixiong Xing3, Yuhang Wang1, 2, Feng Xue1, 2, Muyi Kang1, 2, *(), Kai Luo4   

  1. 1 College of Resources Science & Technology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
    2 State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
    3 Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    4 Baoji Matoutan Forestry Bureau, Baoji, Shaanxi 721006
  • Received:2016-08-11 Accepted:2016-10-19 Online:2017-02-08
  • Kang Muyi

Although much research has focused on biodiversity in mountain regions, elevational patterns of community similarity (i.e. species turnover) and the underlying processes are still rarely discussed. In this study, based on field investigations of 28 forest communities in the western Qinling Mountains, we evaluated the combined effects of habitat divergence and geographical distance on patterns of similarity in species composition using Mantel tests and multiple regressions on distance matrices (MRM). We also compared the rates of similarity decay of different life forms with geographical distance using permutation tests. Results indicated that, for all three life forms, community similarity decreased significantly with elevational, geographical, and habitat distances. Geographical distance and habitat heterogeneity together explained 41.1%, 59.0% and 47.4% of variance in species composition of trees, shrubs and herbs, respectively, with geographical distance uniformly explaining more variance than habitat heterogeneity. Woody plants showed a faster decay in similarity with geographical distance than herbaceous species. These results suggest that, at the scale of our study, dispersal limitations and habitat filtering influence species composition together, and highlighted that dispersal limitation may play a more important role in structuring the forest communities of the western Qinling Mountains.

Key words: dispersal limitation, habitat filtering, habitat heterogeneity, elevational gradient, community assembly, species turnover

Table 1

Mantel tests for the correlation between the community similarity and geographic distance, elevational distance and habitat divergence"

Explanatory variable
地理距离 Geographic distance 0.640*** 0.787*** 0.656***
海拔距离 Elevational distance 0.674*** 0.647*** 0.586***
坡向 Aspect 0.067 0.057 0.216***
坡度 Slope 0.035 0.071 0.151*
冠层厚度 Canopy thickness 0.060 -0.026 0.090
总胸高断面积 Total basal area 0.184** 0.122 0.226**
乔木密度 Tree density -0.101 -0.197 -0.028
土壤深度 Soil depth 0.003 -0.080 0.024
凋落层厚度 Litter thickness 0.319*** 0.107 0.295***
土壤有机碳 Soil organic C 0.355*** 0.300*** 0.440***
土壤全氮 Soil total N 0.395*** 0.306*** 0.441***
土壤全磷 Soil total P 0.214** 0.210*** 0.265***

Fig. 1

Scatter plots of species similarity against geographical distance (a, b, c), elevational distance (d, e, f) and habitat divergence (g, h, i). Lines in the plots are fitted by ordinary least square regression."

Fig. 2

Variances in species similarity of life forms of trees, shrubs and herbs explained by geographic distance and habitat divergence according to partial MRM (multiple regressions on distance matrices)"

Table 2

Differences in the rate of distance decay in species composition of trees, shrubs and herbs"

Spatial variables
Life form
Elevational distance
乔木 Tree P < 0.001 P < 0.001
灌木 Shrub - P = 0.006
Geographical distance
乔木 Tree P = 0.182 P < 0.001
灌木 Shrub - P < 0.001
27 Navarro T, Oualidi JE, Taleb MS, Pascual V, Cabezudo B (2009) Dispersal traits and dispersal patterns in an oro-Mediterranean thorn cushion plant formation of the eastern High Atlas, Morocco. Flora, 204, 658-672.
28 Nekola JC, White PS (1999) The distance decay of similarity in biogeography and ecology. Journal of Biogeography, 26, 867-878.
29 Oksanen J, Blanchet FG, Kindt R, Legendre P, Minchin PR, O’Hara RB, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Henry M, Stevens H, Wagner H (2013) vegan: community ecology package. R package version 2.0-10.
30 Peng SY, Hu G, Yu MJ (2014) Beta diversity of vascular and its influencing factors on islands in the Thousand Island Lake. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 34, 3866-3872. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[彭思羿, 胡广, 于明坚 (2014) 千岛湖岛屿维管植物β多样性及其影响因素. 生态学报, 34, 3866-3872.]
31 Qian H (2009) Beta diversity in relation to dispersal ability for vascular plants in North America. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 18, 327-332.
32 Qian H, Hao ZJ, Zhang J (2014) Phylogenetic structure and phylogenetic diversity of angiosperm assemblages in forests along an elevational gradient in Changbaishan, China. Journal of Plant Ecology, 7, 154-165.
33 Rayment GE, Higginson FR (1992) Australian Laboratory Handbook of Soil and Water Chemical Methods.Inkata Press, Melbourne.
34 Reich PB, Frelich LE, Voldseth RA, Bakken P, Adair EC (2012) Understorey diversity in southern boreal forests is regulated by productivity and its indirect impacts on resource availability and heterogeneity. Journal of Ecology, 100, 539-545.
35 Ricklefs RE (2004) A comprehensive framework for global patterns in biodiversity. Ecology Letters, 7, 1-15.
36 Smith TW, Lundholm JT (2010) Variation partitioning as a tool to distinguish between niche and neutral processes. Ecography, 33, 648-655.
37 Soininen J, McDonald R, Hillebrand H (2007) The distance decay of similarity in ecological communities. Ecography, 30, 3-12.
38 Steinbauer MJ, Dolos K, Reineking B, Beierkuhnlein C (2012) Current measures for distance decay in similarity of species composition are influenced by study extent and grain size. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21, 1203-1212.
39 Steinitz O, Heller J, Tsoar A, Rotem D, Kadmon R (2006) Environment, dispersal and patterns of species similarity. Journal of Biogeography, 33, 1044-1054.
40 Tan SS, Ye ZL, Yuan LB, Zhou RF, Hu G, Jin XF, Yu MJ (2013) Beta diversity of plant communities in Baishanzu Nature Reserve. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 33, 6944-6956. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[谭珊珊, 叶珍林, 袁留斌, 周荣飞, 胡广, 金孝锋, 于明坚 (2013) 百山祖自然保护区植物群落beta多样性. 生态学报, 33, 6944-6956.]
41 Tang ZY, Fang JY, Chi XL, Feng JM, Liu YN, Shen ZH, Wang XP, Wang ZH, Wu XP, Zheng CY (2012a) Patterns of plant beta-diversity along elevational and latitudinal gradients in mountain forests of China. Ecography, 35, 1083-1091.
42 Tang ZY, Fang JY, Chi XL, Yang YY, Ma WH, Mohhamot A, Guo ZD, Liu YN, Gaston KJ (2012b) Geography, environment, and spatial turnover of species in China’s grasslands. Ecography, 35, 1103-1109.
43 Tobler WR (1970) A computer movie simulating urban growth in the Detroit region. Economic Geography, 46, 234-240.
44 Tuomisto H, Ruokolainen K, Yli-Halla M (2003) Dispersal, environment, and floristic variation of western Amazonian forests. Science, 299, 241-244.
1 Brad O, Grace JB, Chase JM (2009) Beneath the veil: plant growth form influences the strength of species richness-productivity relationships in forests. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 18, 416-425.
2 Capinha C, Essl F, Seebens H, Moser D, Pereira HM (2015) The dispersal of alien species redefines biogeography in the Anthropocene. Science, 348, 1248-1251.
45 Vavrek MJ (2011) Fossil: palaeoecological and palaeogeographical analysis tools. Palaeontologia Electronica, 14, 50-64.
46 Wang D, Wang XA, Guo H, Wang SX, Zheng WN, Liu SL (2013) Effect of species disperal and environmental factors on species assemblages in grassland communities. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 33, 4409-4415. (in Chinese with English abstract)
3 Chase JM (2014) Spatial scale resolves the niche versus neutral theory debate. Journal of Vegetation Science, 25, 319-322.
4 Chen SB, Ouyang ZY, Xu WH, Xiao Y (2010) A review of beta diversity studies. Biodiversity Science, 18, 323-335. (in Chinese with English abstract)
46 [王丹, 王孝安, 郭华, 王世雄, 郑维娜, 刘史力 (2013) 环境和扩散对草地群落构建的影响. 生态学报, 33, 4409-4415.]
47 Wang D, Geng ZC, Yu D, He WX, Hou L (2014) Vertical distribution of soil active carbon and soil organic carbon storage under different forest types in the Qinling Mountains. Chinese Jounal of Applied Ecology, 25, 1569-1577. (in Chinese with English abstract)
4 [陈圣宾, 欧阳志云, 徐卫华, 肖燚 (2010) Beta多样性研究进展. 生物多样性, 18, 323-335.]
5 Donoghue MJ (2008) Phylogenetic perspective on the distribution of plant diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 105, 11549-11555.
47 [王棣, 耿增超, 佘雕, 和文祥, 侯琳 (2014) 秦岭典型林分土壤活性有机碳及碳储量垂直分布特征. 应用生态学报, 25, 1569-1577.]
48 Wang ZH, Fang JY, Tang ZY, Lin X (2010) Patterns, determinants and models of woody plant diversity in China. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 278, 2122-2132.
6 Eiserhardt WL, Svenning JC, Kissling WD, Balslev H (2011) Geographical ecology of the palms (Arecaceae): determinants of diversity and distributions across spatial scales. Annals of Botany, 108, 1391-1416.
7 Gilbert B, Lechowicz MJ (2004) Neutrality, niches, and dispersal in a temperate forest understory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 101, 7651-7656.
49 Wiens JJ, Donoghue MJ (2004) Historical biogeography, ecology and species richness. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 19, 639-644.
50 Xiao ZS, Wang YS, Zhang ZB (2001) Seed bank and the factors influencing it for three Fagaceae species in Dujiangyan Region, Sichuan. Biodiversity Science, 9, 373-381. (in Chinese with English abstract)
8 Goslee SC, Urban DL (2007) The ecodist package for dissimilarity-based analysis of ecological data. Journal of Statistical Software, 22, 1-19.
9 Götzenberger L, Bello F, Bråthen KA, Davison J, Dubuis A, Guisan A, Lepš J, Lindborg R, Moora M, Pärtel M (2012) Ecological assembly rules in plant communities—approaches, patterns and prospects. Biological Reviews, 87, 111-127.
10 Han XH, Wen LF, Liu Y, Wang Z (2010) Current situation of forest resources and management measures for Matoutan Forestry Bureau. Shaanxi Forest Science and Technology, (4), 59-61. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[韩星海, 汶录凤, 刘勇, 王周 (2010) 马头滩林业局森林资源现状分析. 陕西林业科技, (4), 59-61.]
11 Hawkins BA, Rodríguez MÁ, Weller SG (2011) Global angiosperm family richness revisited: linking ecology and evolution to climate. Journal of Biogeography, 38, 1253-1266.
12 Hubbell SP (2001) The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
13 John R, Dalling JW, Harms KE, Yavitt JB, Stallard RF, Mirabello M, Hubbell SP, Valencia R, Navarrete H, Vallejo M (2007) Soil nutrients influence spatial distributions of tropical tree species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 104, 864-869.
14 Jurasinski G (2007) Simba: a collection of functions for similarity calculation of binary data R package Version 0.2-5.(accessed on 2016-07-20
15 Körner C (2007) The use of “altitude” in ecological research. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 22, 569-574.
16 Kreft H, Jetz W (2010) A framework for delineating biogeographical regions based on species distributions. Journal of Biogeography, 37, 2029-2053.
17 Latham RE, Ricklefs RE (1993) Global patterns of tree species richness in moist forests: energy-diversity theory does not account for variation in species richness. Oikos, 67, 325-333.
18 Legendre P, Legendre LFJ (1998) Numerical Ecology.Elsevier, Amsterdam.
19 Legendre P, Mi XC, Ren HB, Ma KP, Yu MJ, Sun IF, He FL (2009) Partitioning beta diversity in a subtropical broad- leaved forest of China. Ecology, 90, 663-674.
20 Lennon JJ, Koleff P, Greenwood J, Gaston KJ (2001) The geographical structure of British bird distributions: diversity, spatial turnover and scale. Journal of Animal Ecology, 70, 966-979.
21 Lenoir J, Gégout JC, Guisan A, Vittoz P, Wohlgemuth T, Zimmermann NE, Dullinger S, Pauli H, Willner W, Grytnes JA (2010) Cross-scale analysis of the region effect on vascular plant species diversity in southern and northern European mountain ranges. PLoS ONE, 5, e15734.
22 Lenoir J, Virtanen R, Oksanen J, Oksanen L, Luoto M, Grytnes JA, Svenning JC (2012) Dispersal ability links to cross-scale species diversity patterns across the Eurasian Arctic tundra. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21, 851-860.
23 Lichstein JW (2007) Multiple regression on distance matrices: a multivariate spatial analysis tool. Plant Ecology, 188, 117-131.
24 Liu QF, Kang MY, Liu QR (2006) Quantitative classification and environmental interpretation of forest tree species in Hungou, Zhongtiao Mountain. Journal of Plant Ecology (Chinese Version), 30, 383-391. (in Chinese with English abstract)
[刘秋锋, 康慕谊, 刘全儒 (2006) 中条山混沟地区森林乔木种的数量分类与环境解释. 植物生态学报, 30, 383-391.]
25 Liu Y, Tang ZY, Fang JY (2015) Contribution of environmental filtering and dispersal limitation to species turnover of temperate deciduous broad-leaved forests in China. Applied Vegetation Science, 18, 34-42.
26 Lu P, Jin Y, Chen JH, Li MH, Yu MJ (2013) Influence of geographical distance and topographic difference on β diversity in two large-scale forest dynamics plots. Biodiversity Science, 21, 554-563. (in Chinese with English abstract)
50 [肖治术, 王玉山, 张知彬 (2001) 都江堰地区三种壳斗科植物的种子库及其影响因素研究. 生物多样性, 9, 373-381.]
26 [卢品, 金毅, 陈建华, 李铭红, 于明坚 (2013) 地理距离和地形差异对两个大型森林动态样地β多样性的影响. 生物多样性, 21, 554-563.]
[1] TANG Li-Li,ZHANG Mei,ZHAO Xiang-Lin,KANG Mu-Yi,LIU Hong-Yan,GAO Xian-Ming,YANG Tong,ZHENG Pu-Fan,SHI Fu-Chen. (2019) Species distribution and community assembly rules of Juglans mandshurica in North China . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(9): 753-761.
[2] XU Jin-Shi,CHAI Yong-Fu,LIU Xiao,YUE Ming,GUO Yao-Xin,KANG Mu-Yi,LIU Quan-Ru,ZHENG Cheng-Yang,JI Cheng-Jun,YAN Ming,ZHANG Feng,GAO Xian-Ming,WANG Ren-Qing,SHI Fu-Chen,ZHANG Qin-Di,WANG Mao. (2019) Community assembly, diversity patterns and distributions of broad-leaved forests in North China . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(9): 732-741.
[3] CHAI Yong-Fu,XU Jin-Shi,LIU Hong-Yan,LIU Quan-Ru,ZHENG Cheng-Yang,KANG Mu-Yi,LIANG Cun-Zhu,WANG Ren-Qing,GAO Xian-Ming,ZHANG Feng,SHI Fu-Chen,LIU Xiao,YUE Ming. (2019) Species composition and phylogenetic structure of major shrublands in North China . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(9): 793-805.
[4] SHI Jing-Jing,ZHAO Ming-Fei,WANG Yu-Hang,XUE Feng,KANG Mu-Yi,JIANG Yuan. (2019) Community assembly of herbaceous layer of the planted forests in the central Loess Plateau, China . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(9): 834-842.
[5] Gui Xujun, Lian Juyu, Zhang Ruyun, Li Yanpeng, Shen Hao, Ni Yunlong, Ye Wanhui. (2019) Vertical structure and its biodiversity in a subtropical evergreen broad- leaved forest at Dinghushan in Guangdong Province, China . Biodiv Sci, 27(6): 619-629.
[6] Liu Xiangyu, Zhao Ciliang, Xu Mingshan, Liang Qiming, Zhu Xiaotong, Li Liang, Yan Enrong. (2019) Beta diversity of vascular plants and its drivers in sea-islands of eastern China . Biodiv Sci, 27(4): 380-387.
[7] CHENG Yi-Kang, ZHANG Hui, WANG Xu, LONG Wen-Xing, LI Chao, FANG Yan-Shan, FU Ming-Qi, ZHU Kong-Xin. (2019) Effects of functional diversity and phylogenetic diversity on the tropical cloud forest community assembly . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(3): 217-226.
[8] HAO Shu-Jun, LI Xiao-Yu, HOU Man-Man, ZHAO Xiu-Hai. (2019) Spatial variations of community functional traits at different successional stages in temperate forests of Changbai Mountains, Northeast China . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(3): 208-216.
[9] Guijun Yang,Min Wang,Yichun Yang,Xinyun Li,Xinpu Wang. (2019) Distribution patterns and environmental interpretation of beetle species richness in Helan Mountain of northern China . Biodiv Sci, 27(12): 1309-1319.
[10] LIU Jin-Liang, YU Ming-Jian. (2019) Community assembly processes in fragmented forests and its testing methods . Chin J Plant Ecol, 43(11): 929-945.
[11] Weng Changlu,Zhang Tiantian,Wu Donghao,Chen Shengwen,Jin Yi,Ren Haibao,Yu Mingjian,Luo Yuanyuan. (2019) Drivers and patterns of α- and β-diversity in ten main forest community types in Gutianshan, eastern China . Biodiv Sci, 27(1): 33-41.
[12] Yu Zhang, Gang Feng. (2018) Distribution pattern and mechanism of insect species diversity in Inner Mongolia . Biodiv Sci, 26(7): 701-706.
[13] MENG Ling-Jun, YAO Jie, QIN Jiang-Huan, FAN Chun-Yu, ZHANG Chun-Yu, ZHAO Xiu-Hai. (2018) Drivers of composition and density pattern of tree seedlings in a secondary mixed conifer and broad-leaved forest, Jiaohe, Jilin, China . Chin J Plan Ecolo, 42(6): 653-662.
[14] ZHENG Shan-Shan, CHEN Xu-Bo, XU Wei-Nan, LUO Zheng-Rong, XIA Geng-Shou. (2018) Effects of exotic-native species relationship on naturalization and invasion of exotic plant species . Chin J Plant Ecol, 42(10): 990-999.
[15] Yunfeng Song, Shengwen Chen, Wei Wang, Jianping Yu, Haiyuan Qian, Yunquan Wang, Lei Chen, Xiangcheng Mi, Haibao Ren, Duo Ye, Jianhua Chen, Keping Ma. (2017) Effects of negative density dependence and habitat filtering on the functional diversity of seedlings in the subtropical forest of Gutianshan . Biodiv Sci, 25(9): 959-965.
Full text