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Am Nat. 2007 Nov;170(5):690-701. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

The latitudinal gradient of species-area relationships for vascular plants of North America.

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  • 1Research and Collections Center, Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois 62703, USA. hqian@museum.state.il.us


The species-area relationship (SAR), describing the increase in species richness with increasing area, and the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), describing the decrease in species richness with increasing latitude, are the oldest and most robust patterns in biogeography, yet connections between them remain poorly understood. Here, using 1,742 floras covering the entirety of North America north of Mexico (NAM) and including all of NAM's native species of vascular plants, we show that the slope of the SAR consistently decreases with increasing latitude. This trend is general and holds for subsets of the floras in eastern and western NAM. The southernmost latitudinal quarter of NAM exhibits SARs more than twice as steep as those of the northernmost quarter for both eastern and western regions. This decrease in SAR slope with increasing latitude is consistent with the environmental texture hypothesis and Rapoport's rule, and it suggests that more detailed studies of species endemism in relation to environmental and historical factors will yield significant insights into the underlying causes of SAR and LDG patterns.

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