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Table of Content
    Volume 25 Issue 1
    20 January 2017

    Snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a flagship species of the mountain biodiversity conservation. In this issue, Tang et al (see pages 62–70) investigated the activity rhythm and habitat preference of wild snow leopard using camera-trapping in the Wolong National Nature Reserve. The picture shows a snow leopard in the alpine scree. The photo was offered by Zhuo Tang and his collaborators.

      
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    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  0-0. 
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    Orginal Article
    Mapping Asia Plants: a cyberinfrastructure for plant diversity in Asia
    State Key Laboratory of Vegetation
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  1-2.  doi:10.17520/biods.2017030
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    Patterns and determinants of species similarity decay of forest communities in the western Qinling Mountains
    Mingfei Zhao, Guoyi Wang, Kaixiong Xing, Yuhang Wang, Feng Xue, Muyi Kang, Kai Luo
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  3-10.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016220
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    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.

    Relationships between established seedling survival and growth in evergreen broad-leaved forest in Tiantong
    Heming Liu, Zunping Ma, Qingsong Yang, Xiaofeng Fang, Qingkai Lin, Yi Zong, , Xihua Wang
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  11-22.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016290
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    Community seedling regeneration is a crucial process for maintaining species coexistence. The stage from which an established seedling becomes a new reproductive individual is one of the most important components of community regeneration, and influences the community recruitment pattern. However, the short-term mortality of established seedlings is lower than newly germinated seedlings, and previous studies have not been able to analyze the effect of biotic neighborhoods and abiotic micro-habitat factors on established seedling survival perfectly. Therefore, we suggest that the growth status of established seedlings could predict established seedling survival during development, and analyze the effects of these biotic and abiotic factors on established seedling growth, in order to indirectly estimate their effects on established seedling survival. To test this hypothesis, we selected established seedlings in the 20 ha forest dynamics plot in Tiantong as samples. Then, we used generalized linear mixed models to assess the effects of relative growth rate, biotic neighborhood factors (conspecific/heterospecific adult neighborhood indices, density of conspecific/heterospecific seedling neighbors, the amount of conspecific/heterospecific leaf litter from neighbors) and abiotic micro-habitat factors (canopy openness, herbaceous coverage, elevation, slope, aspect, pH value, total nitrogen and total phosphorus in the soil) on short-term established seedling survival rates. We used linear mixed models to assess the effects of biotic neighborhood factors and abiotic micro-habitat factors on relative growth rates of established seedlings. Results showed that relative growth rates have a significant, positive effect on established seedling survival, and this factor is the most important factor among potential influencing factors. In addition, canopy openness, as only one significant influencing factor, has a positive effect on relative growth rates of established seedlings. These results suggest that the growth status of seedlings could predict established seedling survival during development. Meanwhile, established seedlings prefer to grow in habitat with better light. Therefore, the established seedling survival rate would be higher in the habitat with better light through higher relative growth rates.

    Spatial heterogeneity and its causes in evergreen broad-leaved forests in the Ailao Mountains, Yunnan Province
    Yuanjie Xu, Dunmei Lin, Ming Shi, Yanjie Xie, Yizhi Wang, Zhenhua Guan, Jianying Xiang
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  23-33.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016199
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    Understanding the variation of species richness over spatial scales, and elucidating the response of plant community composition to habitat heterogeneity has been one of the major topics in the study of community ecology. Niche differentiation related to habitat heterogeneity plays an important role in shaping diversity levels and species distribution patterns of plant communities. Based on a survey of 42 plots of four types of evergreen broad-leaved forests in the Ailao Mountains of Yunnan Province, this paper explored how community distribution and tree species richness of such forests changed along topographic and edaphic gradients. We found significant differences in community composition among the four types of evergreen broad-leaved forests. Tree species richness of monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forests was significantly higher than that of the other forest types. Tree species richness of mid-montane moist evergreen broad-leaved forests was significantly higher than that of semi-humid evergreen broad-leaved forests, whereas no significant difference was observed among the other forest types. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) revealed that nine environmental gradients, including elevation, slope, soil water content, soil organic matter, were the determinants of forest community composition and tree distribution patterns. As the best predictors of tree species richness, soil available boron, elevation, soil total potassium and convexity together explained 63.2% of the variance of tree species richness. The combination of topographic and edaphic factors explained most of the variance of community composition and tree species richness of the evergreen broad leaved forests in the Ailao Mountains.

    Species diversity and dominant species’ niches of eremophyte communities of the Tugai forest in the Ebinur basin of Xinjiang, China
    Gong Xuewei, Lü Guanghui
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  34-45.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016166
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    Patterns of species diversity are determined by both species interactions and environmental adaptations. The species composition and environmental factors of the Tugai forest on the north shore of the Aqikesu River was investigated to determine species diversity and the ecological niche of dominant species in the Ebinur basin. Using a multivariate regression tree based on the content of soil water and salinity, our results showed that the plant communities were divided into three associations. The three associations are the Ass. Populus euphratica - Apocynum venetum - Phragmites australis (type I), the Ass. Populus euphratica - Reaumuria songonica (type II), and the Ass. Kalidium foliatumPopulus euphratica - Apocynum venetum + Alhagi sparsifolia (type III). Association I had a weak ability to tolerate extreme environments, including 5 quadrats, while Association II could tolerate mild salt and drought stress, including 3 quadrats, and Association III had a certain degree of adaptability to salty and dry habitats, including 22 quadrats. With succession of typical associations from type I to III, psammophytes and halophytes gradually occupied the habitats and become the dominant species. The Shannon-Wiener biodiversity index and Margalef richness index initially decreased and then increased along with environmental degradation, while the Simpson dominance index and Pielou evenness index showed the opposite trend. The variation of associations and species diversity along the environmental gradient reflects the succession of plant communities. The Bray-Curtis similarity analysis of niche breadth clustered 13 dominant species into two groups, with an average similarity of 96.89% and 97.66%, respectively, reflecting that the niche breadth of species has a high similarity. The pressure coefficient of non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination was 0.04 and except for Halimodendron halodendron and Glycyrrhiza uralensis, and species distribution also had a high similarity. In summary, soil water and salt contents are the main environmental factors that are responsible for plant structure and diversity, and determine the direction of succession. The niche and distribution of dominant species show high similarity, indicating obvious competitive relationship between them.

    Influence of traditional Wa culture on vegetable germplasm diversity in Yunnan Province
    Hua Shao, Dayuan Xue
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  46-52.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016324
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    Based on field studies, the relationship between traditional vegetable germplasm resources and the traditional culture of the Wa ethnic group in Cangyuan County and Ximeng County of Yunnan Province was explored. Results showed that there were 110 species of vegetable resources used by Wa people frequently, belonging to 40 families and 85 genera, containing 60 species of cultivated vegetables and 50 species of wild vegetables. Cultivated vegetables were divided into 53 traditional cultivars and 36 introduced cultivars. During 1985-2015, home-grown vegetable cultivars used by the Wa people increased, but the cultivars of traditional vegetables decreased. The traditional culture of the Wa people, characterized by diversified utilization of vegetables’ edible parts, eating habits, respect to ancestors, the “homology of medicine and food” and traditional seed reserve and exchange methods, played an important role in the conservation and utilization of vegetable germplasm resources. This paper also analyzed the possible loss and influence factors of traditional vegetable germplasm resources, and suggestions were proposed for strengthening the protection of the traditional ethnic culture, and subsequently, promotion of the protection and sustainable utilization of local traditional vegetable germplasm resources.

    Biodiversity and distribution patterns of Triplophysa species in the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau
    Chenguang Feng, Chao Tong, Renyi Zhang, Guogang Li, Kunyuan Wanghe, Yongtao Tang, Cunfang Zhang, Kai Zhao
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  53-61.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016259
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    The northeastern region of the Tibetan Plateau is a region with high genetic diversity for endemic species. To comprehensively document the patterns of diversity and the distribution of Triplophysa species in this area, we probed the allocation of Triplophysa species using field surveys from 2012 to 2015. We found that areal shrinkage and fragmentation had occurred in some species. Species richness in this area was uneven. But the middle to upper reaches of the Heihe River, Datong River and Taohe River were uncommon areas with high species-richness and high biodiversity. Along altitudinal gradients, species richness presented a unimodal pattern and peaked at mid-elevations (2,200-2,400 m), which was the transition area between two community zones with high species richness. The unimodal pattern fit Lomolino’s prediction regarding species density and altitude. Biodiversity indices displayed uniform patterns with species richness and elevation. Consistent with most studies, the unimodal shape may be the universal pattern of biodiversity distribution along elevational gradients in the Tibetan Plateau and its adjacent highlands. The intermediate elevational regions should be conservation priorities.

    Research on snow leopards (Panthera uncia) using camera-trapping in Wolong National Nature Reserve, China
    Zhuo Tang, Jian Yang, Xuehua Liu, Pengyan Wang, Zhouyuan Li
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  62-70.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016313
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    Between November 2013 and March 2016, twenty Ltl-6210MC infrared-triggered camera-traps were installed in Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China, to monitor snow leopards(Panthera uncia) and other wildlife. A total of 7,056 camera-days of data were collected, including approximately 120,000 photos and video clips. The effective number of snow leopard samples collected by the infrared cameras was 43, and the calculated relative abundance index (RAI) for this species was 6.09. During the 28 months of continuous data collection using infrared cameras, records of snow leopards, including leopard cubs, demonstrated that Wolong National Nature Reserve is a relatively hospitable environment for this species. The analytical results indicate that the annual activity peaked in January, and the daily activity peaked between the hours of 18:00-20:00, and daily activity patterns showed seasonal variations. When considering environmental factors, the preferred habitat is the alpine scree where snow leopards appeared most in the ridge areas and the range of preferred reference temperatures for snow leopard activity was found between -10℃ and -3℃. In addition, the lunar-phase relative abundance index was originally created to assess the appearance of wildlife under different night lightness levels. It was found that the snow leopard is fairly active at night, and the lunar-phase has a significant impact on its level of nocturnal activity (P < 0.01). We provided primary sources for further protection and research of snow leopards and the other wildlife. This study could be utilized to comprehensively learn the ecological characteristics and assess snow leopard habitat.

    Identification of functional zones and methods of target management in Sanjiangyuan National Park
    Mengdi Fu, Junliang Tian, Yanpeng Zhu, Yu Tian, Zhiping Zhao, Junsheng Li
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  71-79.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016098
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    Functional zones are the key link for the master planning and scientific management of national parks. We established an evaluation index system to comprehensively analyze regional ecological and environmental features in our study area, the source region of the Yellow River in the Sanjiangyuan National Park. The evaluation index system contains 13 evaluation indices, which include ecosystem services, potential habitat for key species, ecological sensitivity, and ecological pressure classes. By using the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and experts marking methods and combining the requirements of management and control measures, the study area was divided into four primary functional zones, including a core reserve area, ecological restoration area, traditional utilization area, and residential and recreational service area. The protection gradation for each zone is reduced in turn, and the gradation of utilization and public accessibility is enhanced. This functional zones method laid a solid foundation for the effective planning of Sanjiangyuan National Park, while at the same time, our study provides new insight into the functional zones of national parks.

    On public participation in the construction of national parks
    Jingya Zhang, Yujun Zhang
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  80-87.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016156
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    Public participation is an attempt by development partners to broadly consult and involve the public as to where projects should be situated. The clear trend is toward broader and more frequent public involvement and collaboration for national park governance as public participation has been applied in the management of protected areas for several decades. Public participation in the Chinese protected area system presents a passive and non-standardized situation. The preliminary model of public participation in China’s national parks is presented in this paper through synthesizing the background of the construction of China’s national park system. Results obtained in this research indicate that, according to the degree of public participation, there could be four types of public participation in China’s national parks, which include information feedback, consultation, agreement and partnerships. The impacts of our obtained results provide references for a pilot project involving the construction of China’s national park system.

    The origin of genetic codes: from energy transformation to informatiza- tion
    Ping Xie
    Biodiv Sci. 2017, 25 (1):  94-106.  doi:10.17520/biods.2016260
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    It is a miracle of nature that a set of genetic codes have assembled tens of millions of different species on the earth. However, no one knows exactly how these genetic codes came into being. Many biologists hold the pessimistic view that an exact reconstruction of the process of code construction may never be possible. It is even believed that the origin of the genetic code is unknowable, as there is no trace in physics or chemistry of the control of chemical reactions by a sequence of any sort or of a code between sequences. Many papers have been published with titles indicating that they explore the origin of the genetic code, but in actuality the content deals only with its evolution. More than half a century has passed since the discovery of genetic codes, but their origin is still one of the greatest mysteries in the modern life sciences. Are the genetic codons really unknowable? Do they require external design? So far, several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the origin of the genetic code, including the frozen accident hypothesis, stereochemical hypothesis, co-evolution hypothesis, and synthetic hypothesis. These hypotheses suffer from two fatal defects: first, none can explain satisfactorily why the genetic codes evolved, and second, none has explained the origin of genetic codes from that of the biochemical system (a relation of part to whole). In other words, all of these hypotheses completely overlooked the coevolution of genetic codes with the biochemical system. In recent decades, very little definitive progress has been made, although intensive studies have focused on variation or flexibility of the codes and possible rules of codon allocations to amino acids. This paper is aimed to explore the secrets of coevolution between the codon and the biochemical system. The genetic codes were likely an evolutionary product of primordial cells from energy transformation to informatization when ATP played a crucial role. Here, we present an ATP-centric hypothesis aimed at exploring the hidden primordial world inspiring the origin of genetic codes. We examined how and why ATP is at the heart of the extant biochemical system, and how the genetic codes came into being with the evolution of the biochemical system driven by photosynthesis. ATP, carriers of both energy and information, provide a bridge between amino acids and proteins, and are most likely the initiator of the genetic codes. In short, the energetic ATP together with its derivatives could randomly extend chains of both polynucleotides and polypeptides, which made it possible to establish or fix chemical relations between sequences of nucleotides in polynucleotides and amino acids in polypeptides from their numerous random combinations through a feedback mechanism (selection of cellular survival); and technically, photosynthesis, a goal-oriented process, enabled various biotic factors or reactions (ATP, lipid vesicle, informatization, structuralization, homogenous individual, individuality, survival, etc.) to be integrated into an operating system of genetic codes. It is challenging to crack the mystery of genetic codes, but sophisticated experimental evidence are needed in the future.


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