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Latitudinal Range Variation of Trees in the United States: A Reanalysis of the Applicability of Rapoport's Rule

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In 1975 E. H. Rapoport described a pattern of increasing latitudinal range sizes for organisms with increasing latitude, a pattern that is now known as Rapoport's rule. The universal applicability of Rapoport's rule has been long contested, making it one of the more controversial biogeographic “rules.” This study aims to reassess the applicability of Rapoport's rule to U.S. tree species. Data presented here suggest that Rapoport's rule does indeed apply to most tree taxa within the United States, but may be taxon specific. In addition, data presented here suggest that tree range patterns consistent with Rapoport's rule in the United States are not restricted to high latitudes and are not the result of a “boundedness effect” but may be intimately linked with the glacial history and physical geography of North America. The analyses conducted here are intended to emphasize the utility of such biogeographic rules even if they are not universally applicable and should, in turn, only be considered biogeographic patterns.
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Keywords: Rapoport's rule; United States; latitudinal range; macroecology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tennessee

Publication date: 2007-02-01

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