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Table of Content
    Volume 21 Issue 5
    20 September 2013

    Halophila ovalis is a fast-growing seagrass species of the family Hydrocharitaceae. Its biggest distribution area is located along the coast of subtropical China, and it is one of the most preferred foods for the endangered species Dugong dugon. At present, China’s seagrass meadows are facing national-wide decline because of increasing human disturbance. Public awareness of seagrasses and their ecosystem services has lagged far behind that of other ecosystems. Based on literature research and field investigations, Zheng et al. review the diversity, distribution and conservation of Chinese seagrass species (for details see pages 517–526 of this issue). (Photographed by Guanglong Qiu at the Tieshan Bay, Guangxi)

    Orginal Article
    On Asia Biodiversity Conservation and Database Network
    Keping Ma
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  515-516.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.02213
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    Diversity, distribution and conservation of Chinese seagrass species
    Fengying Zheng, Guanglong Qiu, Hangqing Fan, Wei Zhang
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  517-526.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10038
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    Seagrass beds are one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth and an important source of ecosystem services. Accurate mapping of spatial patterns of seagrass species diversity are lacking at the national scale in China, while taxonomic information on Chinese seagrass species requires an urgent update. This lack of information hinders national conservation and restoration programs for seagrass biodiversity. In this article we review studies of diversity, distributions and degradation of seagrass in China. A total of 22 seagrass species distributed along China’s coastal regions belong to ten genera and four families, and account for about 30% of known seagrass species worldwide. A check of herbarium material stored in Sun Yat-sen University showed that the seagrass species previously identified as Posidonia australis in Hainan is in fact Enhalus acoroides. From our analyses, two Chinese seagrass biotas are proposed. These include the South China Sea Bioregion (SCSBR) and China’s Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea Bioregion (CYSBSBR). The SCSBR includes Hainan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Hongkong, Taiwan and Fujian provinces, and contains 15 seagrass species representing nine genera with Halophila ovalis being most widely distributed. The CYSBSBR includes Shandong, Hebei, Tianjin and Liaonin provinces and contains nine seagrass species belonging to three genera with Zostera marina being most widely distributed. The total distribution area for China’s seagrass meadows is estimated to be 8,765.1 ha, with Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces accounting for 64%, 11% and 10% of the area, respectively. Both the number and area of seagrass meadows are much higher in the SCSBR than in the CYSBSBR. In the SCSBR, seagrass meadows are mainly located in the eastern Hainan coast, Zhanjiang in Guangdong, Beihai in Guangxi and Dongsha Island in Taiwan, whereas in the CYSBSBR they predominate in Rongcheng in Shandong and Changhai in Liaoning. Halophila ovalis, Thalassia hemprichii and Z. marina are the dominated species in seagrass meadows in Guangdong and Guangxi, Hainan and Taiwan, Shandong and Liaoning respectively. Seagrass degradation in China is mainly attributed to human disturbances caused by fishing, aquaculture and sea reclamation. For conservation purposes we advise the following: (1) initiate an extensive national survey of spatial patterns of seagrass species diversity; (2) conduct long-term monitoring of typical seagrass meadows and establish a national seagrass monitoring network; (3) accelerate legislation for seagrass conservation and include some ecologically-significant seagrass meadows as reserves; (4) invest more finance in research on the restoration of seagrass beds and conservation of seagrass germplasm resources; (5) standardize the Chinese names of seagrassesin China.

    Species diversity of phytoplankton communities in the Western Arctic Ocean during summer 2010
    Gengming Lin, Yu Wang, Qingliang Yang
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  527-536.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10092
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    Phytoplankton assemblages in the Arctic Ocean, particularly in the Western Arctic Ocean, remain unclear due to limited long-term ecological investigation caused by the existing harsh environment. In the present study, we characterized summer phytoplankton assemblages in surface water in terms of species composition and spatial distribution in the Western Arctic Ocean in 2010. Phytoplankton samples were collected at 50 stations in the survey area (67.0o-86.1o N, 152.5 o-169.0 o W) from 20 July to 30 August 2010 during the CHINARE 2010 cruise aboard the Chinese icebreaker R/V “Xuelong”. Results showed that high species diversity was present in the surface water phytoplankton community. A total of 154 phytoplankton taxa (>5 μm) distributed among 67 genera of 10 phyla (or class) were identified in the study, which could be divided into four ecological groups, namely Arctic species, Arctic-boreal species, Warm-temperate species and Cosmopolitan species. Phytoplankton diversity exhibited a significant spatial difference with regard to taxonomic composition and abundance during the investigation period. Two phytoplankton assemblages were present in the surface water comprising a shelf community and an open sea community. Average abundance and species richness of the shelf community were 892.6×102 cells/dm3 and 1.81, respectively, and the dominant species were Navicula pelagica, Thalassiosira nordenskioeldii, Chaetoceros diadema, Pseudo-nitzschia seriata, Leptocylindrus danicus, Nitzschia longissima and N. grunowii. A succession from pennate to centric diatoms was evident. The open sea community contained a far lower abundance and species richness (27.7×102 cells/dm3 and 1.28) than the community in the abysmal area and was mainly dominated by Thalassionema nitzschioides. The relationship between the distribution of surface water phytoplankton and several environmental factors were discussed.

    Species composition and community diversity of nekton in Laizhou Bay, China
    Fan Li, Huanjun Zhang, Zhenbo Lü, Bingqing Xu, Liang Zheng
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  537-546.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10009
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    Based on trawls conducted in Laizhou Bay, China (119°05′-120°00′ E, 37°12′-37°40′ N), in 2010 and 2011, an analysis was made of changes in species composition, dominant species and community diversity of nekton. A total of 85 species were identified, which included 55 fish, 25 crustaceans and 5 cephalopod species. The most species-rich orders were Perciformes (28 species) and Decapoda (24 species). There was obvious seasonal variation in nekton number, mostly influenced by the number of fishes. Sardinella zunasi, Konosirus punctatus and Thryssa kammalensis were the main pelagic fishes in Laizhou Bay, Chaeturichthys stigmatias, Acanthogobius ommaturus and Cynoglossus joyneri were the main bottom fishes, Orgtosaquilla oratoria, Charybdis japonica and Crangon hakodatei were the main crustaceans, while squid (Loliolus sp.) represented the main cephalopods. Loliolus sp., Chaeturichthys stigmatias and Konosirus punctatus were the dominant species in both 2010 and 2011 and the Shannon-Wiener diversity index was highest in summer and lowest in winter. The Shannon-Wiener index was also higher in the north-east area and lower in the south-west. Since the late 1950s, nekton number, especially of fish, has significantly declined due to human activities and climate change impacts. This is particularly true for cartilaginous fish, estuarine species, river-migratory species, large-scale economic fish, flatfish and takifugu. In parallel, dominant species, such as Trichiurus lepturus, Setipinna taty, Engraulis japonicus, Thryssa kammalensis have been replaced by smaller nekton.

    Biodiversity of the benthic shellfish in the intertidal zone of the Liusha Bay, Leizhou Peninsula
    Sheng Ke, Yuchun Shen, Enyi Xie, Zailiang Li
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  547-553.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.07050
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    An analysis was conducted of species composition, spatial-temporal distribution and biodiversity of benthic shellfish in the intertidal zone of the Liusha Bay, Leizhou Peninsula, where shellfish are intensively framed. Areas sampled in 2008 and 2009 included seagrass beds (SGB), cultured shellfish areas (CSA) and non-cultured areas (NCA). We found (1) 97 shellfish species, of which 58 occurred in the NCA and 49 in the SGB. Cerithidea cingulata and Batillaria zonalis were dominant species in all three areas. (2) In the SGB and NCA, biomass and abundance of shellfish reached highest values in September and lowest in May. In the SGB and CSA, highest biomass and abundance of shellfish occurred in the high-tidal zone, followed by the mid-tidal zone and low-tidal zone. (3) Highest Margalef richness index and Shannon-Wiener index values were estimated for the NCA while the highest Pielou evenness index values was obtained for the CSA. Based on an analysis of K-dominance curves, the CSA was most severely disturbed. In summary, an unstable community structure and reduced biodiversity of shellfish was evident in the intertidal zone of the SGB and CSA. Improvements to both community structure and biodiversity of benthic shellfish in these areas are likely to result from reducing the intensity of shellfish culturing and extending seagrass coverage and mix-typed sediment.

    Influence of geographical distance and topographic difference on β diversity in two large-scale forest dynamics plots
    Pin Lu, Yi Jin, Jianhua Chen, Minghong Li, Mingjian Yu
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  554-563.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10049
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    β diversity quantifies the extent of community compositional shift in a heterogeneous environment. To understand how β diversity is influenced by geographical distance and topographic variation in continuous space, we compared β diversity in two large-scale forest dynamics plots (FDPs). One of these is a 24 ha plot exhibiting complex topography in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest at Gutianshan (GTS), China. The other is a 50 ha plot of comparatively simple topography present in a lowland tropical moist forest on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) in Panama. We investigated the influence of geographical distance and topographic difference on β diversity at four levels of grain. We adopted the 1-Chao-Jaccard index as a measure of β diversity, and performed tests such as Mantel and Partial Mantel tests to disentangle the effects of geographical distance, topographic variation and five topographical variables on β diversity. The results showed that in both plots β diversity was grain size dependent, decreasing as grain size increased. In both plots β diversity was significantly affected by geographical distance and topographic difference. Furthermore, the influence of geographical distance on β diversity showed a monotonic increase in both FDPs with increase in grain size. The effect of topography on β diversity was consistently larger in GTS than in BCI, and was manifested in GTS mainly through altitude and convexity at each grain size. Our results suggest the importance of both niche and dispersal processes in shaping β diversity patterns.

    The phylogenetic signal of functional traits and their effects on community structure in an evergreen broad-leaved forest
    Ke Cao, Mide Rao, Jianping Yu, Xiaojuan Liu, Xiangcheng Mi, Jianhua Chen
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  564-571.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.08068
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    The phylogenetic conservatism of plant functional traits and its association with community structure are important topics in ecological research. Plant functional traits are simultaneously affected by their evolutionary background, local habitat conditions and large-scale climate. In this study we asked whether functional traits have a significant phylogenetic signal and significantly affect species abundance in a community. For this objective, we used data from a 24 ha Gutianshan forest plot, which included species abundance and six functional traits of 156 woody species: leaf nitrogen content, leaf phosphorus content, leaf area, wood density, specific leaf area and seed mass. We found that all functional traits showed significant phylogenetic signal, suggesting that all functional traits are significantly affected by their evolutionary history. We also found that species abundance was correlated with leaf nitrogen content, leaf phosphorus content, leaf area, woody density and specific leaf area except seed mass, suggesting that resource acquisition significantly affects species abundance distribution in a community, and that these functional traits impact community structure in different ways.

    Fruit composition and seed dispersal strategies of woody plants in a Dujiangyan subtropical forest, Southwest China
    Juan Li, Cong Guo, Zhishu Xiao
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  572-581.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10106
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    This study aimed to investigate relationships between fruit traits and seed dispersal in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest. Fruit composition and fruit phenology were monitored using 240 seed traps distributed over 10 separated stand patches in a fragmented forest in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province, Southwest China. A total of 10,542 mature fruits, belonging to 42 woody plant species of 36 genera and 24 families, were collected between April 2009 and December 2010. The peak of fruiting and fruit abundance occurred during autumn (between September and December) when there is less rainfall. Plant families with higher species richness included Fagaceae (17%), Lauraceae (12%), and Rosaceae (10%), while other families included only 1-2 fruiting species. Seed dispersal by animals was the most dominant dispersal mode (88.1% of species) while anemochory (wind dispersal) was the mode for other species. Seeds of animal-dispersed species were mainly dispersed by frugivorous birds (52.4%), followed by scatter-hoarding rodents (19.0%) and frugivorous birds and mammals combined (16.7%). Drupes (48%), nuts (17%), and cones (10%) were the most common fruit types. Species with black fruits (39%) and red fruits (21%) were most common and were dispersed by fruigivorous birds, while species with brown nuts (29%) were also common and were mainly dispersed by scatter-hoarding animals. Most fruiting species (64.3%) had relatively small fruits (<10 mm in diameter), and were mainly dispersed by birds, while those with larger fruits (>10 mm in diameter) were mainly dispersed by wind or rodents. Our study indicates that most of fruiting woody species occur during autumn (later wet season and early dry season) and fruit traits of these plants have been adapted by animal-mediated seed dispersal in the Dujiangyan subtropical forest.

    Characteristics of the production of underground fruits and seed dispersal of Crocus alatavicus, a geophytic-geocarpic species
    Ziyan Fu, Dunyan Tan
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  582-589.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.08077
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    Geophytic-geocarpy is a special type of fruit production in angiosperms, whereby flowers with a long tubular perianth arise from underground buds and bloom above ground with the ovary and subsequent fruit remaining below ground. Crocus alatavicus, a geophytic-geocarpic species, is a perennial early-spring ephemeral that grows in subalpine areas of the western Tianshan Mountains. Based on field observations and controlled experiments, development of the underground ovaries and young fruits and seed dispersal were investigated for C. alatavicus and their adaptive significance analyzed. The results showed that developmental time from flowering to emergence of the underground capsules above the soil was about 35 days, and emergence of the underground capsules results from elongation of the peduncles, and then capsules dehisce and seeds are dispersed. Seeds of C. alatavicus have an elaiosome, which is typical of myrmecochores. Ants make a significant contribution to seed dispersal, and three ant species, Formica pressilabris, F. gagates and F. fusca, were recorded near newly-dispersed seeds of C. alatavicus. The visiting frequency of F. pressilabris was the highest, but F. fusca removed seeds faster and to a greater distance than the other two species. The average dispersal distance of the three ant species was 62.4±1.7 cm. Formica pressilabris, the major ant species taking seeds, ate the elaiosome after it moved the seeds into its nest and then stored more than 50% of the transported seeds in the nest. Rodents and birds had no effect on seed dispersal of C. alatavicus, but hydrophily and anemophily played a minor role in short-distance dispersal. Formation of seeds underground and their dispersal by ants help ensure that seeds escape damage from herbivores and fire and that they are dispersed in a manner that reduces sib-competition and competition between mother plant and offspring, thereby ensuring seed germination and seedling establishment in suitable environments.

    Reproductive characteristics of the invasive species Solanum rostratum in different habitats of Xinjiang, China
    Juan Qiu, Dilinuer Shalimu, Dunyan Tan
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  590-600.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.11044
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    The invasiveness of alien plants is closely related to their reproductive characteristics. A comparison of reproductive characteristics of an alien species in different habitats will help to reveal its optimum habitat for invasion and the mechanism of invasion. Furthermore, it will provide a theoretical foundation for planning a reasonable management strategy. Solanum rostratum is a summer annual weed native to the neotropics and the southwestern USA that produces offspring only by sexual reproduction. This species has become established in seven provinces/cities of China, including Xinjiang. We compared reproductive characteristics of S. rostratum in oasis, desert grassland and gravel desert habitats in Xinjiang and determined the optimum habitat for its invasion. The results were as follows. (1) Single-flower duration of S. rostratum was between 27 and 47 hours. Daily flowering time and single-flower duration were similar among the three habitats. However, number of flowers per individual differed among habitats (P<0.01=: oasis > desert grassland > gravel desert. (2) Halictus quadricinctus, Halictus sp. and Xylocopa latipes were the pollinators of S. rostratum, and all of them buzz-pollinated flowers. However, X. latipes visited flowers only occasionally. (3) Total visiting frequency of pollinators differed among habitats (P<0.05): oasis > desert grassland > gravel desert. Halictus quadricinctus preferred habitats with relatively low temperatures and high humidity, while another species of Halictus preferred relatively high temperatures and low humidity. Thus, the daily time of the peak of visiting frequency of H. quadricinctus was earlier than that of Halictus sp. (4) Order of number of fruits per individual, seed number per fruit and per individual and mass of 1,000 seeds was oasis > desert grassland > gravel desert. Fruit number per individual was highly significantly positively correlated with both number of flowers per individual and total visiting frequency of pollinators. Seed numbers per individual and per fruit were significantly positively correlated with total visiting frequency of pollinators. Our study indicates that S. rostratum can obtain more resources, produce more flowers that attract pollinators and produce more seeds with larger mass in oases than in desert grassland or gravel desert. Therefore, the oasis is the optimum habitat of S. rostratum in the arid region of Xinjiang, China.

    Genetic diversity and genetic structure of the rare and endangered species, Primula ranunculoides
    Deyun Wang, Jie Peng, Yajing Chen, Guosheng Lü, Xiaoping Zhang, Jianwen Shao
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  601-609.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.09098
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    The rare and endangered species Primula ranunculoides is endemic to China and is of reasonably high potential horticultural value. The genetic diversity and structure of the species was examined by surveying variation at nine microsatellite loci across 222 individuals sampled from seven natural populations. The results indicated that there was relatively low genetic diversity present within populations (He = 0.330, Ho = 0.286) and high genetic differentiation among populations. Levels of population genetic diversity and effective population size were both correlated with plant density, rather than population census size or population area. Gene flow between populations was low (Nm = 0.730) and an AMOVA analysis showed that 48.08% of the total genetic diversity was attributable to among populations and the rest (51.92%) to variation within populations. Bayesian assignment and principal coordinate analyses supported clustering of the seven populations into four groups, which were correlated with topographical features. This suggested that Lianghu Plain (Dongtinghu Plain and Jianghan Plain) and the farming area of Xiushui and Wuning counties were major barriers to gene flow, causing high divergence between different mountain populations. Based on the genetic structure of P. ranunculoides, four management units for conservation purposes are proposed, i.e. the Jiulingshan, Mufushan, Qizimeishan and Yinlu units.

    Herpetofauna of Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve in Tibet, China
    Hujun Pan, Daode Yang, Haihua Qin, Liang Zhang, Ke Jiang, Huijian Hu
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  610-615.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.06045
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    The Qomolangma National Nature Reserve (QNNR) in Tibet, China, is the highest nature reserve in the world and is characterized by a wide range in altitude. The QNNR was established to protect its vegetation, unique alpine ecosystem, and overall abundant biodiversity. Amphibians and reptiles are important components of its biodiversity, but are poorly understood. Thus, we surveyed amphibians and reptiles in the QNNR on 5 occasions between October 2010 and October 2012. This survey revealed 9 amphibian species, which belong to 6 genera, 3 families, and 1 order. All of these species belong to the Oriental Realm. We also recorded 11 reptile species belonging to 10 genera, 4 families, and 1 order. Among these species, 8 belong to the Oriental Realm and 3 to the Palearctic Realm. According to our records, the herptofauna of the QNNR is characterized by both endemic amphibian and reptile species with 2 endemic species and 6 quasi-endemic species in China. The estimated species richness of amphibians and reptiles in the reserve is likely to increase with further survey, especially along the southern slope of the Himalayas. A sharp dividing line between the Palearctic region and Oriental region in the QNNR occurs between 3,600-3,800 m a.s.l. with no transition zone.

    DNA barcoding of life: a classification of uses according to function and scale after ten years of development
    Nancai Pei, Bufeng Chen
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  616-627.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.12059
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    DNA barcoding technology provides molecular information, standard dataset platforms, and universal technical regulations for modern biological research. We briefly review the history of DNA barcoding between 2003 and 2012, and classify DNA barcoding into three types of biological function: basic function (e.g., storing data, and identifying species), extending function (e.g., building phylogenies, serving specific subjects, and compiling biological atlas) and potential function (e.g., revealing cryptic species). We sort DNA barcoding studies at three levels: clade scale (e.g., familial and/or generic taxa), community scale (e.g., biotic communities in nature reserves and permanent forest dynamics plots), and regional scale (e.g., biodiversity hotpots). We further list ten major research programs proposed by the International Barcode of Life, which are related to DNA barcoding approaches from the prospective of systematics and taxonomy, biodiversity conservation, evolutionary ecology and phylogenetics, and the construction of digital platforms. We appreciate the huge capability of barcoding technology in the field of biological sciences, and also realize the challenges of DNA barcoding utilizations in multidisciplinary studies and the essential to add more tests before the large-scale applications.

    Germplasm resource base for rhododendron horticulture: status, probl- ems and countermeasures
    Hong Wu, Xuemei Yang, Huimin Shao, Fei Wang
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  628-634.  doi:10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.07251
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    The germplasm resource of rhododendrons is a potential factor influencing their horticultural development. We discuss the current situation and problems facing utilization and conservation of rhododendrons to provide new thoughts with regard to China’s rhododendron horticulture industry. Currently, only about 12.0-15.0 percent of global rhododendron germplasm resources, and around 8.7-12.2 percent found in China, have been utilized in rhododendron horticulture. The rhododendron species commonly used mainly belong to semi-evergreen and deciduous species, for instance, Subgenera Tsutsusi and Therorhodion. We list some of China’s primitive rhododendron species which are suitable for breeding based on our field observations, and point out some current problems in the utilization of germplasm including insufficient understanding of the value of germplasm resources, limitation of the research platform, and limited technical ability for cultivating new varieties, etc. The rationality and sustainability of germplasm resources should be fully considered and managed in the development of rhododendron horticulture. We suggest the development of a public platform for research and the establishment of 3-5 nature reserves mainly focusing on rhododendron conservation. Also, we advise strengthening of independent research and the development of capabilities and techniques for producing new varieties.

    The Checklist of the Chinese Invasive Plants
    Biodiv Sci. 2013, 21 (5):  635-635. 
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