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Relationships between species richness of vascular plants and terrestrial vertebrates in China: analyses based on data of nature reserves

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The relationship between plant diversity and animal diversity on a broadscale and its mechanisms are uncertain. In this study, we explored this relationship and its possible mechanisms using data from 186 nature reserves across China on species richness of vascular plants and terrestrial vertebrates, and climatic and topographical variables. We found significant positive correlations between species richness in almost all taxa of vascular plants and terrestrial vertebrates. Multiple regression analyses indicated that plant richness was a significant predictor of richness patterns for terrestrial vertebrates (except birds), suggesting that a causal association may exist between plant diversity and vertebrate diversity in China. The mechanisms for the relationships between species richness of plants and animals are probably dependent on vertebrate groups. For mammals (endothermic vertebrates), this relationship probably represents the integrated effects of plants on animals through trophic links (i.e. providing foods) and non-trophic interactions (i.e. supplying habitats), whereas for amphibians and reptiles (ectothermic vertebrates), this may be a result of the non-trophic links, such as the effects of plants on the resources that amphibians and reptiles require.
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Keywords: China; ectothermic vertebrates; endothermic vertebrates; nature reserves; species richness; topographical variability; vascular plants

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology, College of Environmental Sciences, and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China, and 2: Départment des Sciences Biologiques, Institut des Sciences de l’Environnement , Université du Québec à Montréal, Case postale 8888, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Quebec H3C 3P8, Canada

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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