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Relationships between Plant and Animal Species Richness at a Regional Scale in China

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Important questions in conservation biology and ecology include whether species diversities of different groups of organisms are correlated and, in particular, whether plant diversity influences animal diversity. I used correlation and partial regression analyses to examine the relationships between species richness of vascular plants and four major groups of terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds) in 28 provinces in China. Species richness data were obtained from the literature. Environmental variables included normalized difference vegetation index, mean January temperature, mean annual temperature, annual precipitation, May through August precipitation, actual evapotranspiration, potential evapotranspiration, and elevation range. Species richness was strongly and positively correlated among the five groups of organisms. Plant richness was correlated with animal richness more strongly than the richness of different animal groups correlated with each other except for reptile richness, which had a slightly higher correlation with amphibian richness than with plant richness. Plant richness uniquely explained 41 times more variance in the species richness of the four vertebrate groups combined than environmental variables uniquely did, suggesting that plant richness influences terrestrial vertebrate richness at the regional scale examined. Because of strong correlations between the diversity of vascular plants and vertebrates, the diversity of vascular plants may be used as a surrogate for the diversity of terrestrial animals in China. My results have implications for selection of areas to be protected at both regional and local scales.
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Keywords: congruencia trans–taxón; correlación de riqueza de especies; cross-taxon congruence; diversidad de especies; plantas vasculares; riqueza de especies; species diversity; species richness; species richness correlation; terrestrial vertebrates; vascular plants; vertebrados terrestres

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Research and Collections Center, Illinois State Museum, 1011 East Ash Street, Springfield, IL 62703, U.S.A., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 August 2007

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