Exploring the relationship between canopy height and terrestrial plant diversity
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A relatively small number of broad-scale patterns describe the distribution of biodiversity across the earth. All of them explore biodiversity focusing on a mono or bi-dimensional space. Conversely, the volume of the forests is rarely considered. In the present work, we tested a global correlation between vascular plant species richness (S) and average forest canopy height (H), the latter regarded as a proxy of volume, using the NASA product of Global Forest Canopy Height map and the global map of plant species diversity. We found a significant correlation between H and S both at global and macro-climate scales, with strongest confidence in the tropics. Hence, two different regression models were compared and discussed to provide a possible pattern of the H–S relation. We suggested that the volume of forest ecosystems should be considered in ecological studies as well as in planning and managing natural sites, although in this first attempt, we cannot definitively prove our hypothesis. Again, high-resolution spatial data could be highly important to confirm the H–S relation, even at different scales.
KeywordsBiodiversity Biospace Canopy height Ecosystem volume Species richness
The authors gratefully acknowledge Prof. W. Barthlott (University of Bonn) who kindly shared his global map on vascular plant diversity. We also acknowledge Dr. M. Santini (CMCC) and Dr. F. Di Paola (IMAA-CNR) for many constructive suggestions. The research leading to these results has been supported by the ERC Africa GHG and GEOCARBON Projects Nos. 247349 and 283080, respectively. This study was also supported by the research grant "Study of climatically-driven changes of the biodiversity of vulnerable ecosystems in Siberia", given by Mendeleev Foundation in the framework of the Tomsk State University's Competitiveness Improvement Programme.
RCG conceived the idea and the study, and together with ADP wrote the manuscript; ADP and SN conducted the statistics and the correlation analysis. AB contributed to the discussion and conclusion. RV supervised the study. All the authors had final approval of the submitted version.
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