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Altitudinal Pattern of Plant Species Diversity in Shennongjia Mountains, Central China

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One hundred and sixty plots, approximately every 100 m above sea level (a.s.1.) along an altitudinal gradient from 470 to 3 080 m a.s.1. at the southern and northern watershed of Mt. Shennongjia, China, were examined to determine the altitudinal pattern of plant species diversity. Mt. Shennongjia was found to have high plant species diversity, with 3 479 higher plants recorded. Partial correlation analysis and detrended canonical correspondence analysis (DCCA) based on plant species diversity revealed that altitude was the main factor affecting the spatial pattern of plant species diversity on Mt. Shennongjia and that canopy coverage of the arbor layer also had a considerable effect on plant species diversity. The DCCA based on species data of importance value further revealed that altitude gradient was the primary factor shaping the spatial pattern of plant species. In addition, the rule of the “mid-altitude bulge” was supported on Mt. Shennongjia. Plant species diversity was closely related to vegetation type and the transition zone usually had a higher diversity. Higher plant species diversity appeared in the mixed evergreen and deciduous broadleaved forest zone (900–1500 m a.s.1.) and its transition down to evergreen broadleaved forest zone or up to deciduous broadleaved forest zone. The largest plant species diversity in whole communities on Mt. Shennongjia lay at approximately 1 200 m a.s.1. Greatest tree diversity, shrub diversity, and grass diversity was found at approximately 1 500, 1 100, and 1 200 m a.s.1., respectively. The southern watershed showed higher plant species diversity than the northern watershed, with maximum plant species diversity at a higher altitude in the southern watershed than the northern watershed. These results indicate that Mt. Shennongjia shows characteristics of a transition region. The relationship between the altitudinal pattern of plant species diversity and the vegetation type in eastern China are also discussed and a hypothesis about the altitudinal pattern of plant species diversity in eastern China is proposed.

(Managing editor: Ya-Qin HAN)
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Keywords: Mt. Shennongjia; altitudinal pattern; mid-altitude bulge; plant species diversity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratory of Quantitative Vegetation Ecology, Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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