Skip to main content

Are Food and Habitat Resources Key Factors Determining Bird Species Richness at Broad Landscape-Scale in the Mainland of China?


This work aims to examine the spatial pattern of bird species richness at broad landscape-scale and to determine the key factors correlated to this pattern in the mainland of China. We divided the mainland of China was divided into 241 quadrats, 2° latitude by 2° longitude. The number of bird species occurring in each quadrat was counted based on available records. Plant species richness was also measured and net primary productivity estimated for each quadrat. Climatic data of each quadrat were based on 30-year records from 830 county’s meteorological stations. The results showed that bird species richness was significantly correlated to most factors examined. Factors of food, water and habitat resources such as plant species richness, primary productivity, annual mean precipitation, and longitude were most significantly related to bird richness in China. Other factors such as monthly mean temperature of January, frost-free period, minimum temperature, annual mean temperature, latitude showed somewhat indirect effects on bird species richness, i.e. specifically, they directly influenced plant richness and productivity, which then influenced bird richness. The maximum bird species richness occurs in the south of Yunnan province close to Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon probably in response to rich food resources, while the minimum plant species richness was found on Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau where food resources and habitats are limited. Based on our results, we suggest that the protection and development of food and habitat resources should be a priority to conserve bird diversity in China.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Currie, D.J. and Paquin, V., Broad landscape-scale biogeographical patterns of species richness of trees, Nature, 1987, vol. 329, pp. 326–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Qian, H., Beta diversity in relation to dispersal ability for vascular plants in North America, Global Ecol. Biogeogr., 2009, vol. 18, pp. 327–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Macpherson, E., Broad landscape-scale species-richness gradients in the Atlantic Ocean, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci., 2002, vol. 269, pp. 1715–1720.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Currie, D.J., Mittelbach, G.G., Cornell, H.V., Kaufman, D.M., Kerr, J.T., and Oberdorff, T., Predictions and tests of climate-based hypotheses of broadscale variation in taxonomic richness, Ecol. Lett., 2004, vol. 7, pp. 1121–1134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brown, J.H. and Lomolino, M.V., Biogeography, 2nd ed, Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Assoc., 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ribera, I., Foster, G.N., and Alfried, V.P., Does habitat use explain large-scale species richness patterns of aquatic beetles in Europe?, Ecography, 2003, vol. 26, pp. 145–152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Küper, W., Kreft, H., Nieder, J., Köster, N., and Barthlott, W. Broad landscape-scale diversity patterns of vascular epiphytes in neotropical montane rain forests, J. Biogeogr., 2004, vol. 31, p. 1477.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Adams, J. M. and Woodward, F. I., Patterns in tree species richness as a test of the glacial extinction hypothesis, Nature, 1989, vol. 339, pp. 699–701.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Rahbek, C. and Graves, G.R., Detection of macroecological patterns in South American hummingbirds is affected by spatial scale, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci., 2000, vol. 267, pp. 2259–2265.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Rahbek, C., Gotelli, N.J., Colwell, R.K., Entsminger, G.L., Fernando, L.V.B., Rangel, T.F., and Graves, G.R., Predicting continental-scale patterns of bird species richness with spatially explicit models, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci., 2007, vol. 274, pp. 165–174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Goetz, S.J., Sun, M., Zolkos, S., Hansen, A., and Dubayah, R., The relative importance of climate and vegetation properties on patterns of North American breeding bird species richness, Environ. Res. Lett., 2014, vol. 9, 034013.

  12. Hawkins, B.A., Diniz-Filho, J.A.F., and Weis, A.E., Energy, water, and broad-scale geographic patterns of species richness, Ecology, 2003, vol. 84, pp. 3105–3117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Thorn, M., Green, M., Keith, M., Marnewick, K., Bateman, P.W., Cameron, E.Z., and Scott, D.M., Broad landscape-scale distribution patterns of carnivores in northern South Africa: Implications for conservation and monitoring, Oryx, 2011, vol. 45, pp. 579–586.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Currie, D.J., Energy and broad landscape-scale patterns of animal and plant species richness, Am. Nat., 1991, vol. 137, pp. 27–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Chytry, M., Tichy, L., and Rolecek, J., Local and regional patterns of species richness in Central European vegetation types along the pH/calcium gradient, Folia Geobot., 2003, vol. 38, pp. 429–442.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Zhang, J.-T., Xu, B., and Li, M., Vegetation patterns and species diversity along elevational and disturbance gradients in the Baihua Mountain Reserve, Beijing, China, Mt. Res. Dev., 2013, vol. 3, no 2, pp. 170–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Lei, F., Zhao, H., and Yin, Z., Distribution pattern of endangered bird species in China, Integr. Zool., 2006, vol. 1, pp.162–169.

  18. Zhang, J.-T. and Wang, C., Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: Exploring broad landscape-scale patterns in Mainland China, iForest, 2012, vol. 5, pp. 230–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Zheng, G.M., Classification and Distribution of Birds in China, Beijing: Science Press, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Fauna Sinica: Aves, vols. 1–14, Beijing: Science Press, 1998.

  21. Web of Birds in China.

  22. Wu, Z.Y. (ed.), Vegetation of China, Beijing: Science Press, 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Wu, Z.Y. (ed.), Flora of Tibet, Beijing: Science Press, 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Wu, Z.Y. (ed.), Flora of China, electronic version, vol. 5–82., Beijing: Science Press, 2004.

  25. Chen, L.Z. (ed.), Biodiversity in China, Beijing: Science Press, 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Flora of Loess Plateau, Beijing: Science Press, 2000.

  27. Web of Climatic Data Sharing.

  28. Li, D.Q., Sun, C.Y., and Zhang, X.S., Modelling the net primary productivity of the natural potential vegetation in China, Acta Bot. Sinica, 1998, vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 560–566.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Web of Chinese Natural Reserves.

  30. Cerny, T., Dolezal, J., Janecek, S., Srutek, M., Valachovic, M., Petrtik, P., Altman, J., Bartos, M., and Song, J.-S., Environmental correlates of plant diversity in Korean temperate forests, Acta Oecol.: Int. J. Ecol., 2013, vol. 47, pp. 37–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Suarez Rubio, M., Wilson, S., Leimgruber, P., and Lookingbill, T., Threshold responses of forest birds to landscape changes around exurban development, PLoS One, 2013, vol. 8, e67593.

  32. Zhang, J.-T., A study on relations of vegetation, climate and soils in Shanxi province, China, Plant Ecol., 2002, vol. 162, pp. 23–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Grau, O., Grytnes, J.A., and Birks, H.J.B., A comparison of altitudinal species richness patterns of bryophytes with other plant groups in Nepal, Central Himalaya, J. Biogeogr., 2007, vol. 34, pp.1907–1915.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Sergio, F. and Pedrini, P., Biodiversity gradients in the Alps: The overriding importance of elevation, Biodivers. Conserv., 2007, vol. 16, pp. 3243–3254.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Gaston, K.J., Global patterns in biodiversity, Nature, 2000, vol. 405, pp. 220–227.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  36. Swatantran, A., Dubayah, R., Goetz, S., Hofton, M., Betts, M.G., Sun, M., Simard, M., and Holmes, R., Mapping migratory bird prevalence using remote sensing data fusion, PLoS One, 2012, vol. 7, e28922.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jin-Tun Zhang.

Additional information

The article is published in the original.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhang, JT., Wang, C. Are Food and Habitat Resources Key Factors Determining Bird Species Richness at Broad Landscape-Scale in the Mainland of China?. Russ J Ecol 49, 563–569 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Bird richness
  • broad landscape-scale
  • spatial pattern
  • food and habitat resources
  • climatic variables