, Volume 17, Issue 7, pp 1783-1798
Date: 18 Apr 2008

Geographic distribution patterns and status assessment of threatened plants in China

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Abstract

Large scale heterogeneous distribution of biodiversity has become a hot topic for ecologists and conservationists. A threat status assessment combined with geographic distribution patterns of threatened plants in China has been conducted at a national scale in this study based upon a distribution database that refers to both specimen records and published references. Currently, 302 threatened plant species are cataloged in the “National Protected Key Wild Plants” in China belonging to 92 families and 194 genera. Results of the assessment according to the Categories and Criteria system of The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List indicate that three species have been assessed as Extinct in Wild (EW) while a further 79, 99 and 112 species have been assessed as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU), respectively. Distribution patterns of threatened plants were analyzed with GIS to identify areas of high species diversity. It was found that threatened plant species occur unevenly within counties and are concentrated in the following eight hotspots: the central and southern Hengduanshan mountain area; the southeast regions of Yunnan as well as Xishuangbanna and southwestern Guangxi; the southern Hainan island; the border mountainous regions of Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi provinces; the mountainous regions of southwestern Hubei and northern Hunan; southwestern Zhejiang and western Fujian; central Sichuan and southern Gansu; and the western mountains of Guangdong. Moreover, the 12 counties with the greatest number of threatened plant species represent cumulatively more than 50% of the total listed species and, therefore, are the regions in China that should be prioritized for conservation efforts. By overlapping the map of threatened plant species with the distribution of national nature reserves, a gap was identified in protected areas. This research will ultimately provide insights for prioritizing biodiversity conservation as well as processing the mechanisms of distribution patterns.