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Am Nat. 2002 Mar;159(3):294-304. doi: 10.1086/338542.

Species richness and altitude: a comparison between null models and interpolated plant species richness along the Himalayan altitudinal gradient, Nepal.

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  • 1Department of Botany, University of Bergen, All├ęgaten 41, N-5007 Bergen, Norway.


We compare different null models for species richness patterns in the Nepalese Himalayas, the largest altitudinal gradient in the world. Species richness is estimated by interpolation of presences between the extreme recorded altitudinal ranges. The number of species in 100-m altitudinal bands increases steeply with altitude until 1,500 m above sea level. Between 1,500 and 2,500 m, little change in the number of species is observed, but above this altitude, a decrease in species richness is evident. We simulate different null models to investigate the effect of hard boundaries and an assumed linear relationship between species richness and altitude. We also stimulate the effect of interpolation when incomplete sampling is assumed. Some modifications on earlier simulations are presented. We demonstrate that all three factors in combination may explain the observed pattern in species richness. Estimating species richness by interpolating species presence between maximum and minimum altitudes creates an artificially steep decrease in species richness toward the ends of the gradient. The addition of hard boundaries and an underlying linear trend in species richness is needed to simulate the observed broad pattern in species richness along altitude in the Nepalese Himalayas.

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