Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 699–716 | Cite as

Elevational patterns of species richness and endemism for some important taxa in the Hengduan Mountains, southwestern China

  • Da-Cai Zhang
  • Yong-Hong Zhang
  • David E. Boufford
  • Hang SunEmail author
Original Paper


We describe the elevational patterns of species richness and endemism of some important taxa in the Hengduan Mountains, southwest China. Species richness data came from publications, an online database, herbaria and field work. Species richness was estimated by rarefaction and interpolation. The Hengduan Mountains region was divided into a southern and northern subregion, and all species were assigned to four groups based on their distributional range within this region. The conditional autoregressive model (CAR) was used to relate species richness and explanatory variables. The elevational patterns of total, endemic and non-endemic species richness, at subregion and entire region scales, presented to be unimodal and peaked at similar elevations. Area size was strongly related with species richness, and was more powerful in explaining variation in species richness in the northern subregion than in the southern subregion. A single climatic variable (mean annual rainfall, potential evapotranspiration or moisture index) showed a weak relationship with the elevational pattern of species richness. Area and climatic variables together explained more than 67% of the variation in non-endemic richness, 53% in total richness, and 50% in endemic richness. There were three patterns of endemism at the generic level with increasing elevation: namely endemism increased, decreased, or peaked at middle elevations. All selected taxa have experienced rapid speciation and evolution within this region, which plays an important role in the uniform elevational patterns of total, endemic and non-endemic richness, and in the multiform elevational patterns of endemism.


Area Basal taxa Climatic variables Dispersal of species Endemic species Unimodal pattern 



We are indebted to Roy Turkington and Susan Kelley for editing the manuscript. The manuscript was improved from comments by reviewers and Richard H. Ree. This study was supported by grants from the National 973 Project (grant no. 2007CB411601), the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 30625004, 40771073 to H. Sun), and the Fund of Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming institute of botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no. 0806331121), and the U.S. National Science Foundation (grant no. DEB-0321846 to David E. Boufford).

Supplementary material

10531_2008_9534_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.7 mb)


  1. Bachman S, Baker WJ, Brummitt N et al (2004) Elevational gradient, area and tropical island biodiversity: an example from the palms of New Guinea. Ecography 27:299–310. doi: 10.1111/j.0906-7590.2004.03759.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bhattarai KR, Vetaas OR (2003) Variation in plant species richness of different life forms along a subtropical elevational gradient in the Himalayas, east Nepal. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 12:327–340. doi: 10.1046/j.1466-822X.2003.00044.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhattarai KR, Vetaas OR, Grytnes JA (2004) Fern species richness along a central Himalayan elevational gradient. Nepal J Biogeogr 31:389–400Google Scholar
  4. Boufford DE, Dijk PPV (2000) South-Central China. In: Mittermeier RA, Myers N, Mittermeier CG (eds) Hotspots: earth’s biologically richest and most endangered terrestrial ecoregions. Cemex, MexicoGoogle Scholar
  5. Boufford DE, Dijk PPV, Zhi L (2004) Mountains of Southwest China. In: Mittermeier RA, Robles-Gil P, Hoffmann M et al (eds) Hotspots revisited: earth’s biologically richest and most endangered ecoregions, 2nd edn. Cemex, MexicoGoogle Scholar
  6. Carpenter C (2005) The environmental control of plant species density on a Himalayan elevational gradient. J Biogeogr 32:999–1018. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2005.01249.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fang JY (2004) Exploring altitudinal patterns of plant species diversity of China’s mountains. Biodivers Sci 12:1–4Google Scholar
  8. Fu CZ, Hua X, Li J et al (2006) Elevational patterns of frog species richness and endemic richness in the Hengduan Mountains, China: geometric constraints, area and climate effects. Ecography 29:919–927. doi: 10.1111/j.2006.0906-7590.04802.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grytnes JA, Beaman JH (2006) Elevational species richness patterns for vascular plants on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. J Biogeogr 33:1838–1849. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2006.01554.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hegazy AK, El-Demerdash MA, Hosni HA (1998) Vegetation, species diversity and floristic relations along an altitudinal gradient in south-west Saudi Arabia. J Arid Environ 38:3–13. doi: 10.1006/jare.1997.0311 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hofierka J, Parajka J, Mitasova H et al (2002) Multivariate interpolation of precipitation using regularized spline with tension. Trans GIS 6(2):135–150. doi: 10.1111/1467-9671.00101 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Holdrige LR (1947) Determination of world plant formation from simple climate data. Science 105:367–368. doi: 10.1126/science.105.2727.367 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Holdrige LR (1976) Life zone ecology. Tropical Science Center, San JoseGoogle Scholar
  14. Ibisch PL, Boegner A, Nieder J et al (1996) How diverse are neotropical epiphytes? an analysis based on the ‘Catalogue of the flowering plants and gymnosperms of Peru’. Ecotropica 1:13–28Google Scholar
  15. Jankowski T, Weyhenmeyer GA (2006) The role of spatial scale and area in determining richness-altitude gradients in Swedish lake phytoplankton communities. Oikos 115:433–442. doi: 10.1111/j.2006.0030-1299.15295.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jetz W, Rahbek C (2002) Geographic range size and determinants of avian species richness. Science 297:1548–1551. doi: 10.1126/science.1072779 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Karnieli A (1990) Application of kriging technique to areal precipitation mapping in Arizona. GeoJournal 22:391–398. doi: 10.1007/BF00174760 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kessler M (2002) The elevational gradient of Andean plant endemism: varying influences of taxon-specific traits and topography at different taxonomic levels. J Biogeogr 29:1159–1165. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.2002.00773.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kessler M, Herzog SK, Fjeldså J et al (2001) Species richness and endemism of plant and bird communities along two gradients of elevational, humidity, and land use in the Bolivian Andes. Divers Distrib 7:61–77. doi: 10.1046/j.1472-4642.2001.00097.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kluge J, Kessler M, Dunn RR (2006) What drives elevational patterns of diversity? A test of geometric constraints, climates and species pool effects for pteridophytes on an elevational gradient in Costa Rica. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:358–371. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-822X.2006.00223.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krömer T, Kessler M, Gradstein SR et al (2005) Diversity patterns of vascular epiphytes along an elevational gradient in the Andes. J Biogeogr 32:1799–1809. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2005.01318.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li BY (1987) On the boundaries of the Hengduan Mountains. Mt Res 5(2):74–82Google Scholar
  23. Li BY (1989) Geomorphologic regionalization of the Hengduan Mountainous region. Mt Res 7(1):13–20Google Scholar
  24. Li ZW, Chen ZR, Wang ML (1991) Classification and correlation of the quaternary glacial epoch in the Hengduan (Transverse) Mountains. Geol Rev 37:125–132Google Scholar
  25. Liu LH, Yu YD, Zhang JH (1984) The division of vertical vegetation zone in Hengduanshan. Acta Bot Yunnanica 6:205–216Google Scholar
  26. Liu LH, Yu YD, Zhang JH (1985) Discussion upon the regularities of vegetational distribution in the Hengduan Mountains. Acta Bot Yunnanica 7:323–335Google Scholar
  27. Liu ZL, Fang JY, Piao SL (2002) Geographical distribution of species in genera Abies, Picea and Larix in China. Acta Geogr Sin 57:577–586Google Scholar
  28. Liu JQ, Wang YJ, Wang AL et al (2006) Radiation and diversification within the ligularia-cremanthodium-parasenecio complex (Asteraceae) triggered by uplift of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Mol Phylogenet Evol 38:31–49. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2005.09.010 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lomolino MV (2001) Elevational gradients of species-density: historical and prospective views. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 10:3–13. doi: 10.1046/j.1466-822x.2001.00229.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Luo Y, Zhang FM, Yang QE (2005) Phylogeny of Aconitum subgenus Aconitum (Ranunculaceae) inferred from ITS sequences. Plant Syst Evol 252:11–25. doi: 10.1007/s00606-004-0257-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MacArthur RH (1972) Geographical ecology: patterns of the distribution of species. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. McGlone MS, Duncan RP, Heenan PB (2001) Endemism, species selection and the origin and distribution of the vascular plant flora of New Zealand. J Biogeogr 28:199–216. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.2001.00525.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mora C, Robertson DR (2005) Causes of latitudinal gradients in species richness: a test with fishes of the tropical eastern pacific. Ecology 86:1771–1782. doi: 10.1890/04-0883 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG et al (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858. doi: 10.1038/35002501 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Oommen MA, Shanker K (2005) Elevational species richness patterns emerge from multiple local mechanisms in Himalayan woody plants. Ecology 86:3039–3047. doi: 10.1890/04-1837 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rahbek C (2005) The role of spatial scale and the perception of large-scale species richness patterns. Ecol Lett 8:224–239. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2004.00701.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rangel TFLVB, Diniz-Filho JAF, Bini LM (2006) Towards an integrated computational tool for spatial analysis in macroecology and biogeography. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:321–327. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-822X.2006.00237.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sánchez-González A, López-Mata L (2005) Plant species richness and diversity along an altitude gradient in the Sierra Nevada, Mexico. Divers Distrib 11:567–575. doi: 10.1111/j.1366-9516.2005.00186.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sanders NJ (2002) Elevational gradients in ant species richness: area, geometry, and Rapoport’s rule. Ecography 25:25–32. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0587.2002.250104.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schoener TW (1976) The species-area relationship within archipelagoes: models and evidence from island land birds. In: Proceedings of the XVI International Ornithological Congress, vol 6. pp 629–642Google Scholar
  41. Shen ZH, Fang JY, Liu ZL et al (2001) Pattern of biodiversity along the vertical vegetation spectrum of the east aspect of Gongga Mountain. Acta Phytoecol Sin 25:721–732Google Scholar
  42. Sun H (2002) Evolution of Arctic-Tertiary flora in Himalayan-Hengduan Mountains. Acta Bot Yunnanica 24:671–688Google Scholar
  43. Sun H, Li ZM (2003) Qinghai-Tibet Plateau uplift and its impact on Tethys flora. Adv Earth Sci 18:852–862Google Scholar
  44. Trewick SA, Wallis GP, Morgan-Richards M (2000) Phylogeographical pattern correlates with Pliocene mountain building in the alpine scree weta (Orthoptera, Anostostomatidae). Mol Ecol 9:657–666. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-294x.2000.00905.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vetaas OR, Grytnes JA (2002) Distribution of vascular plant species richness and endemic richness along the Himalayan elevational gradient in Nepal. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 11:291–301. doi: 10.1046/j.1466-822X.2002.00297.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Walter H (1979) Vegetation of the earth ecological system of the geobiosphere, 2nd edn. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang WT (1993, 1994) Vascular plants of the Hengduan Mountains (vol. 1 and 2). Science Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang YJ, Liu JQ (2004) A preliminary investigation on the phylogeny of Saussurea (Asteraceae: Cardueae) based on chloroplast DNA trn L-F sequences. Acta Phytotaxon Sin 42(2):136–153Google Scholar
  49. Wu ZY (1988) The Hengduan Mountain flora and her significance. J Jpn Bot 63(9):1–14Google Scholar
  50. Yu YD, Liu LH, Zhang JH (1989) Vegetation regionalization of the Hengduan Mountain region. Mt Res 7(1):47–55Google Scholar
  51. Zhang DC, Sun H (2007) Division of the southern and northern subregions in the Hengduan Mountains and their species richness. Newsl Himal Bot 40:15–19Google Scholar
  52. Zhang RZ, Zheng D, Yang QY et al (1997) Physical geography of Hengduan Mountains. Science Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang FM, Ge S, Chen WL (2003) Phylogeny of the Aconitum delavayi complex (Ranunculaceae) based on evidence from nuclear ribosomal ITS sequences. Acta Phytotaxon Sin 41(3):220–228Google Scholar
  54. Zhao CM, Chen WL, Tian ZQ et al (2005) Altitudinal pattern of plant species diversity in Shennongjia Mountains, Central China. J Integr Plant Biol 47:1431–1449. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2005.00164.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Da-Cai Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yong-Hong Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • David E. Boufford
    • 3
  • Hang Sun
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of SciencesKunmingChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.HerbariaHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations