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A comparison of altitudinal species richness patterns of bryophytes with other plant groups in Nepal, Central Himalaya

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Abstract Aim 

To explore species richness patterns in liverworts and mosses along a central Himalayan altitudinal gradient in Nepal (100–5500 m a.s.l.) and to compare these patterns with patterns observed for ferns and flowering plants. We also evaluate the potential importance of Rapoport’s elevational rule in explaining the observed richness patterns for liverworts and mosses. Location 

Nepal, Central Himalaya. Methods 

We used published data on the altitudinal ranges of over 840 Nepalese mosses and liverworts to interpolate presence between maximum and minimum recorded elevations, thereby giving estimates of species richness for 100-m altitudinal bands. These were compared with previously published patterns for ferns and flowering plants, derived in the same way. Rapoport’s elevational rule was assessed by correlation analyses and the statistical significance of the observed correlations was evaluated by Monte Carlo simulations. Results 

There are strong correlations between richness of the four groups of plants. A humped, unimodal relationship between species richness and altitude was observed for both liverworts and mosses, with maximum richness at 2800 m and 2500 m, respectively. These peaks contrast with the richness peak of ferns at 1900 m and of vascular plants, which have a plateau in species richness between 1500 and 2500 m. Endemic liverworts have their maximum richness at 3300 m, whereas non-endemic liverworts show their maximum richness at 2700 m. The proportion of endemic species is highest at about 4250 m. There is no support from Nepalese mosses for Rapoport’s elevational rule. Despite a high correlation between altitude and elevational range for Nepalese liverworts, results from null simulation models suggest that no clear conclusions can be made about whether liverworts support Rapoport’s elevational rule. Main conclusions 

Different demands for climatic variables such as available energy and water may be the main reason for the differences between the observed patterns for the four plant groups. The mid-domain effect may explain part of the observed pattern in moss and liverwort richness but it probably only works as a modifier of the main underlying relationship between climate and species richness.
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Keywords: Altitudinal gradient; Himalaya; Rapoport’s elevational rule; bryophytes; elevational gradient; endemism; liverworts; mid-domain effect; mosses; species richness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biology, University of Bergen, Allégaten 41, N-5007, Bergen, Norway

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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