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Ecology. 2007 Jun;88(6):1440-53.

Effects of regional vs. ecological factors on plant species richness: an intercontinental analysis.

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Research and Collections Center, Illinois State Museum, 1011 East Ash Street, Springfield, Illinois 62703, USA.


Conclusions from past studies on the roles that historical and regional factors and contemporary and ecological factors have played in regulating large-scale patterns of species richness have been controversial. Conflicting past results were likely affected by differences in the range of environments analyzed and the scales of observation. Eastern North America and eastern Asia are ideal regions for examining the relative effects of historical and regional factors and contemporary and ecological factors on large-scale patterns of plant species richness because these two regions are closely matched in terms of climate and because their floras originated from the same paleoflora but have experienced different histories of development since the late Paleogene when climate cooling caused their separation. We report on a comprehensive data set of 471 floras ranging from 10 km2 to 4.7 x 10(6) km2 and spanning a wide range of climate and latitude (from 21 degrees to 55 degrees N) to examine whether the contribution of region relative to climate persists from small to large floras and increases from cooler to warmer climates. We found that eastern Asia is richer than eastern North America when sample area, maximum elevation, and climate are accounted for, that this difference diminishes toward higher latitudes, and that elevation plays a much stronger role in eastern Asia than in eastern North America. Our analysis reconciles contemporary/ecological and historical/regional explanations for species richness variation and helps explain why different conclusions have been reached by different authors working in the same geographical areas: the strength of the region effect itself varies with location and range of climatic conditions of the observations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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