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Effects of altitude and climate in determining elevational plant species richness patterns: a case study from Los Tuxtlas, Mexico


Krömer, Thorsten; Acebey, Amparo; Kluge, Jürgen; Kessler, Michael (2013). Effects of altitude and climate in determining elevational plant species richness patterns: a case study from Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Flora, 208(3):197-210.

Abstract

Altitudinal changes of composition and richness of montane plant assemblages are complex, depending on the taxonomic group and gradient conditions, with different factors involved that are directly altitude-dependent (e.g., temperatures, air pressure) and altitude-independent (e.g., precipitation, cloud cover, area). In order to assess the relative impacts of temperature, precipitation, air humidity, and area of altitudinal belts on plant diversity, we analyzed diversity patterns of five species-rich groups, mostly herbaceous plants, in 74 forest plots along three climatically contrasting elevational transects from humid tropical lowland vegetation up to cloud forests at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. We recorded 278 plant species, with ferns being the most species-rich group followed by orchids, bromeliads, aroids, and piperoids. The most striking results were the contrasting patterns and model results for terrestrial and epiphytic taxa. Whereas the richness of all terrestrial species taken together did not change significantly with elevation, vascular epiphytes showed increasing species numbers with altitude. However, a number of individual terrestrial taxa showed also significant elevation-related changes: aroids showed a marked decline with hight, orchids and piperoids increased, and ferns displayed a hump-shaped pattern with highest richness in mid-altitudes. Among the epiphytes, aroids declined while most other groups increased with altitude. This distinction is relevant for projections of responses of plant communities to climate change, which will lead to increased temperatures and to changing precipitation and cloud condensation regimes and thus will likely affect terrestrial and epiphytic species in different ways.

Altitudinal changes of composition and richness of montane plant assemblages are complex, depending on the taxonomic group and gradient conditions, with different factors involved that are directly altitude-dependent (e.g., temperatures, air pressure) and altitude-independent (e.g., precipitation, cloud cover, area). In order to assess the relative impacts of temperature, precipitation, air humidity, and area of altitudinal belts on plant diversity, we analyzed diversity patterns of five species-rich groups, mostly herbaceous plants, in 74 forest plots along three climatically contrasting elevational transects from humid tropical lowland vegetation up to cloud forests at Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. We recorded 278 plant species, with ferns being the most species-rich group followed by orchids, bromeliads, aroids, and piperoids. The most striking results were the contrasting patterns and model results for terrestrial and epiphytic taxa. Whereas the richness of all terrestrial species taken together did not change significantly with elevation, vascular epiphytes showed increasing species numbers with altitude. However, a number of individual terrestrial taxa showed also significant elevation-related changes: aroids showed a marked decline with hight, orchids and piperoids increased, and ferns displayed a hump-shaped pattern with highest richness in mid-altitudes. Among the epiphytes, aroids declined while most other groups increased with altitude. This distinction is relevant for projections of responses of plant communities to climate change, which will lead to increased temperatures and to changing precipitation and cloud condensation regimes and thus will likely affect terrestrial and epiphytic species in different ways.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Systematic Botany and Botanical Gardens
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:March 2013
Deposited On:25 Apr 2013 09:12
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:45
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0367-2530
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.flora.2013.03.003
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-77607

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