Biodiversity Science ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (2): 182-194.doi: 10.17520/biods.2017014

• Orginal Article • Previous Article     Next Article

Geographic patterns of alpine flora in China in relation to environmental and spatial factors

Zehao Shen1, *(), Mingzheng Yang1, Jianmeng Feng2, Xinhui Li3, Peihao Peng4, Zhi Zheng5   

  1. 1 Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, MOE Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    2 School of Agronomy and Life Sciences, Dali University, Dali, Yunnan 671000
    3 College of Resources and Environment, Southwestern Forestry University, Kunming 650224
    4 College of Earth Sciences, Chengdu University of Science and Technology, Chengdu 610059
    5 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093
  • Received:2017-01-08 Accepted:2017-02-09 Online:2017-03-06
  • Shen Zehao

Alpine areas are global biomes with extreme environments and distinct boundaries. Studies on the geography of alpine flora help us to understand the formation of flora in an extremely cold and segregated environment, as well as the floristic relations between mountains. We integrated alpine flora data from 14 main mountain ranges in China, measured floristic similarities using the Jaccard index, and explored the percentage composition of areal-types of seed plants and the effects of geographical distance and environmental variation on flora similarities using correlation analyses and Mantel tests. Results indicated that Chinese alpine zones harbor a flora characterized by high species richness, with 3,670 species (including 340 subspecies units) belonging to 489 genera and 65 families recorded in the alpine zone of 14 main mountain ranges. These genera are mainly constituted of areal-types of North Temperate distribution and their sub-types, Cosmopolitan, Old World Temperate, East Asia and Sino-Himalayan, while the Sino-Japanese type is absent. Those endemic to China revealed a distinct presence in alpine flora (5.2%). Based on the data from 14 alpine zones, geographical patterns of alpine floristic composition were characterized by a significant latitudinal decrease of tropic and East Asia areal-types, and an increase of northern temperate types. Along the longitudinal gradient, the percentages of Mediterranean types decreased while the northern temperate types increased, and East Asian elements peaked in the middle position. The alpine floras of 14 mountains were significantly correlated in terms of geographical element composition when measured at the genus level, revealing two groups of higher floristic correlations, mountains surrounding the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and separated northern mountains, respectively. The alpine flora of Taiwan Island is more closely related with that of the northern mountains rather than that of the mountains found in Southwest China, which have more comparable latitudes. We found that geographic distance was the primary factor for deviation between alpine floras, while the physiognomy of alpine zones also influenced floristic composition, and the maximum temperature of warmest month (MTWM) was a critical climatic factor for geographical deviation of alpine flora composition in China, which suggests the potential stress effects of global warming on alpine flora.

Key words: alpine zone, seed plant, floristic elements, geographic differentiation, composition similarity, Mantel test, spatial distance, physiognomy, climate

Fig. 1

Locations of alpine zone of 14 main mountain ranges in China"

Table 1

The basic characteristics of the 14 mountains studied"

Mt. name
Elev. (m)
Lower limit
Alpine treeline species
Alpine area
天山 Mt. Tianshan[1] 新疆 Xinjiang 7,439 42°18'-44°15' 2,800 1,800 雪岭云杉 Picea schrenkiana 832,930.0
阿尔金山 Mt. Arjin[2] 新疆 Xinjiang 6,973 37°55'-39°35' 3,500 3,137.6
祁连山 Mt. Qilian[3] 青海 Qinghai 5,808 37°16'-39°19' 3,600 2,600 祁连圆柏 Sabina przewalskii 16,345.1
贺兰山 Mt. Helan[4] 宁夏 Ningxia 3,556 38°07'-39°30' 3,200 2,600 青海云杉 P. erassifolia 755.5
长白山 Mt. Changbai[5] 吉林 Jilin 2,750 41°42'-42°51' 2,100 1,800 岳桦 Betula ermanii 9,063.4
五台山 Mt. Wutai[6] 河北 Hebei 3,061 38°50'-39°05' 2,800 2,300 华北落叶松 Larix principis-rupprechtii 923.7
太白山 Mt. Taibai[7] 陕西 Shaanxi 3,767 33°49'-34°08' 3,400 2,800 太白红杉 L. chinensis 2,678.7
摩天岭 Mt. Motianling[8] 甘肃 Gansu 3,837 32°39'-32°49' 3,450 2,900 秦岭冷杉 Abies chensiensis 5,698.9
贡嘎山 Mt. Gongga[9] 四川 Sichuan 7,556 29°20'-30°20' 3,800 2,700 峨眉冷杉 A. fabri 68,413.9
高黎贡山 Mt. Gaoligong[10] 云南 Yunnan 5,128 24°40'-28°30' 4,000 3,000 急尖长苞冷杉 A. georgei var. smithii 93,695.2
玉龙雪山 Mt. Yulong[11] 云南 Yunnan 5,596 27°10'-27°15' 3,900 3,200 长苞冷杉 A. georgei 5,628.1
轿子雪山 Mt. Jiaozi [12] 云南 Yunnan 4,247 26°00'-26°10' 4,000 3,200 急尖长苞冷杉 A. georgei var. smithii 294.3
台湾山脉 Mts. Taiwan[13] 台湾 Taiwan 3,998 22°36'-24°26' >3,998 3,000 台湾冷杉 A. kawakamii 3,277.2
珠峰 Mt. Zhumulangma# 西藏 Tibet 8,848 27°48'-29°19' 4,300 3,600 糙皮桦 B. albo-sinensis var. septentrionalis 231,943.0

Fig. 2

Percentage compositions of alpine flora of 14 main mountains in China. T1, Cosmopolitan; T2-7, Tropic types; T8-11, North temperate types; T12-13, Mediterranean types; T14, East Asia types; T14SH, Sino-Himalayan type; T15, Endemic to China."

Table 2

Mantel tests and partial Mantel tests for the correlations between the similarities of geographic elements composition and spatial distance, environmental distance among the 14 main mountains in China"

距离矩阵 Distance matrices R P
环境距离 Environmental distance 0.5506 0.002
环境距离|地理距离 Environmental distance | Geographic distance 0.3543 0.008
形态差异 Physiognomic difference 0.5455 0.002
形态差异|地理距离 Physiognomic difference | Geographic distance 0.3532 0.017
最热月最高温差异 MTWM difference 0.2131 0.046
最热月最高温差异|地理距离 MTWM difference | Geographic distance 0.2014 0.061
地理距离 Geographic distance 0.6006 0.001
地理距离|环境差异 Geographic distance | Environmental distance 0.4401 0.004
地理距离|形态差异 Geographic | Physiognomic distance 0.4451 0.003
地理距离|最热月最高温差异 Geographic | MTWM distance 0.5979 0.001

Fig. 3

Latitudinal and longitudinal patterns of the geographical elements of alpine floras"

Fig. 4

The similarity patterns of the percentage composition of alpine floristic elements in the 14 main mountains in China"

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