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A review of ecological gradient research in the Tropics: identifying research gaps, future directions, and conservation priorities


Muenchow, Jannes; Dieker, Petra; Kluge, Jürgen; Kessler, Michael; von Wehrden, Henrik (2018). A review of ecological gradient research in the Tropics: identifying research gaps, future directions, and conservation priorities. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27(2):273-285.

Abstract

The Tropics are global centers of biodiversity. Ecological and land use gradients play a major role in the origin and maintenance of this diversity, yet a comprehensive synthesis of the corresponding large body of literature is still missing. We searched all ISI-listed journals for tropical gradient studies. From the resulting 1023 studies, we extracted study-specific information, and analyzed it using descriptive analytical tools and GLMs. Our results reveal that dry tropical areas are vastly understudied compared to their humid counterparts. The same holds true for large parts of Africa, but also the Philippines and the South Asian region. However, we also found that (applied) research output of developing tropical countries is nowadays on par with the output of developed countries. Vegetation and elevation were the most studied response variable and gradient, respectively. By contrast, inconspicous organisms such as oribatid mites and edaphic gradients were largely missing in the literature. Regarding biodiversity, tropical gradient studies dealt extensively with species richness and ecosystem diversity, but much less with genetic diversity. We encourage a wider use of modern statistical learning tools such as non-linear (spatio-temporal) regression and classification techniques, and simulations. Finally, we would embrace an even further development of synergies between applied and basic research and between researchers based in developed and in tropical countries.
Keywords Synthesis Tropical ecology Environmental gradient relationships Biodiversity

Abstract

The Tropics are global centers of biodiversity. Ecological and land use gradients play a major role in the origin and maintenance of this diversity, yet a comprehensive synthesis of the corresponding large body of literature is still missing. We searched all ISI-listed journals for tropical gradient studies. From the resulting 1023 studies, we extracted study-specific information, and analyzed it using descriptive analytical tools and GLMs. Our results reveal that dry tropical areas are vastly understudied compared to their humid counterparts. The same holds true for large parts of Africa, but also the Philippines and the South Asian region. However, we also found that (applied) research output of developing tropical countries is nowadays on par with the output of developed countries. Vegetation and elevation were the most studied response variable and gradient, respectively. By contrast, inconspicous organisms such as oribatid mites and edaphic gradients were largely missing in the literature. Regarding biodiversity, tropical gradient studies dealt extensively with species richness and ecosystem diversity, but much less with genetic diversity. We encourage a wider use of modern statistical learning tools such as non-linear (spatio-temporal) regression and classification techniques, and simulations. Finally, we would embrace an even further development of synergies between applied and basic research and between researchers based in developed and in tropical countries.
Keywords Synthesis Tropical ecology Environmental gradient relationships Biodiversity

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:1 February 2018
Deposited On:14 Jan 2019 12:55
Last Modified:29 Sep 2019 05:55
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0960-3115
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-017-1465-y

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