Biodiv Sci ›› 2017, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (11): 1192-1201.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2017149

• Original Papers: Plant Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Biogeographic patterns and environmental interpretation of plant species richness in desert regions of Northwest China

Jianming Wang1, Wenjuan Wang1, Jingwen Li1,*(), Yiming Feng2, Bo Wu2, Qi Lu2   

  1. 1 College of Forestry, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083
    2 Institute of Desertification Studies, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091
  • Received:2017-05-18 Accepted:2017-11-20 Online:2017-11-20 Published:2017-11-20
  • Contact: Li Jingwen


Desertification poses an important ecological problem in Northwest China as desert ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climatic and land-use changes. Due to the harsh environment and poor accessibility, systematic studies of plant diversity in the desert region of Northwest China remain elusive. Here, we explored the geographic patterns of species richness and determinants in the desert regions of Northwest China based on species richness and spatial and climatic factors of 195 field plots. Results showed that a total of 363 species were recorded, belonging to 38 families and 153 genera. Species richness exhibited significant longitudinal and latitudinal gradients, which were quadratically correlated with longitude and latitude. Species richness was strongly influenced by spatial, water, and energy factors. These factors explained 65.36% of the variation in species richness, while 48.08% was simultaneously explained by the three groups of factors. Furthermore, the water and energy factors together explained more variation than that of spatial factors. These results indicate that the patterns of species richness were determined by niche, neutral, and other unknown processes together, and suggest that environmental factors play an important role. We highlight that unmeasured factors including soil, topography, and human disturbances may greatly affect plant species richness in the desert regions of Northwest China.

Key words: desert, species richness, spatial variables, water, energy, niche, neutral processes