Although mountainous habitats contribute substantially to global biodiversity, comparatively little is known about biogeographic patterns of distributions of alpine species across multiple mountain ranges. Here, we present a detailed analysis of the distributions and phylogenetic affinities of alpine seed plant lineages across North, Central, and South American mountain systems. Using a large dataset that characterizes the elevational niches of American seed plants in a continuously valued way, we related the proportion of alpine habitat occupied by plant lineages to their biogeographic distributions at a regional scale and place these results in a phylogenetic context. We found alpine species diversity to be greatest in the central Andes and western North America, and that assemblages with lower phylogenetic diversity contained species with a greater degree of alpine specialization. In particular, near-Arctic/boreal alpine communities were characterized by low phylogenetic diversity and higher degrees of alpine specialization, whereas the opposite was observed for southern Patagonian communities. These results suggest that abiotic filtering alone in these climatically similar regions is unlikely to explain alpine community assembly. Nevertheless, the overall relative rarity of alpine specialists, and the tendency for such specialists to be most closely related to montane lineages, suggested that filtering was still an important factor in shaping alpine community structure. This work corroborates the importance of a nuanced and scale-dependent perspective on the ‘history-filtering’ debate axis, as both factors have likely contributed to modern biodiversity patterns observed in alpine plant communities across the Americas.
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H.F., H.E.M., and S.A.S. were funded by NSF DBI 1930030. Additional funding for H.E.M. was provided by NSF FESD 1338694. P.S. and D.S. were funded by NSF 1930007. C.J.G., J.B., and A.S. were funded by NSF DBI 1930005. The authors would like to acknowledge that portions of this research took place on the traditional Territories of the Three Fire Peoples—the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodéwadmi—as well as others.
H.F., H.E.M., and S.A.S. were funded by NSF DBI 1930030. Additional funding for H.E.M. was provided by NSF FESD 1338694. P.S. and D.S. were funded by NSF 1930007. C.J.G., J.B., and A.S. were funded by NSF DBI 1930005.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
Data and code availability
Links to aggregated occurrence records from GBIF and iDigBio, scripts used to analyze species distribution models and calculate climatic niches, CSV files of climatic niches, and species distribution models generated by MaxEnt are deposited with Dryad at (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9cnp5hqgx). This Dryad deposit contains information on ~ 72,000 American seed plants, not just those described here in the main text and supporting information. Species lists for solely the alpine taxa examined here, organized by individual mountains and mountain ranges, are deposited with Dryad at (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4qrfj6q8v), along with associated alpine species taxonomy.
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Supplementary file1 Additional supporting information in the online version of this article (see Supplementary Material) contains the following: ESM_1—supplementary figures and tables referred to in the main text (DOCX 25511 kb)
Supplementary file2 ESM_2—CSV file containing a taxonomy of the angiosperm alpine species included in this study (CSV 188 kb)
Supplementary file3 ESM_3—List of likely range-limited endemic Andean alpine species excluded by our data cleaning protocol for building reliable niche models (DOCX 22 kb)
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Figueroa, H.F., Marx, H.E., de Souza Cortez, M.B. et al. Contrasting patterns of phylogenetic diversity and alpine specialization across the alpine flora of the American mountain range system. Alp Botany (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00035-021-00261-y
- Alpine flora
- American flora
- Elevation niche
- Montane flora
- Phylogenetic diversity