Biodiversity along Elevational Gradients: Insights from Multiple Taxa

A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907). This special issue belongs to the section "Forest Biodiversity".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2023) | Viewed by 8435

Special Issue Editors


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School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China
Interests: biodiversity; macroecology; community ecology; remote sensing applications

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CAS Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201, China
Interests: evolutionary biology; biogeography

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College of Plant Protection and Biological Control Research Institute, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou 350002, China
Interests: animal ecology; biogeography; open science
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Guest Editor
College of Ecology and Environment, Chengdu University of Technology, Chengdu, China
Interests: biodiversity and conservation; ecosystem degradation and restoration; ecological planning
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Mountains cover about a quarter of all land area on Earth and contribute disproportionately to the terrestrial biodiversity. Due to complex topography, climate, and geological history, mountains exhibit striking biodiversity variation along elevational gradients. The variation in elevational biodiversity makes studying elevational gradients advantageous by providing multiple, independent natural experiments. Following Alexander von Humboldt’s pioneer work over two hundred years ago, many studies have been carried out to document the elevational biodiversity patterns across different regions and biological taxa, and disentangling the abiotic and biotic drivers of these patterns. However, there are huge biases in studied taxa and geographic regions. For example, while vascular plants and several vertebrate groups (mammals and birds) have been paid significant attention, other taxon groups (e.g., bryophytes, insects, and soil animals) are rarely documented. While many studies have been conducted in North America and Europe, we know little about the elevational biodiversity patterns across space and time in other regions (e.g., South America, Africa, and Asia) and ecosystems (e.g., subtropical forests and tropical forests). Moreover, mountains are facing serious threats to their biodiversity and ecosystem services by rapid changes in climate and land use, with dramatic regional disparity in different taxa and multifaceted biodiversity measures (e.g., taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional aspects). Despite the awareness of the impacts of global changes on biodiversity in mountains, disproportionally less works have taken these factors into consideration.

In this Special Issue, we particularly encourage authors to use the outcomes of ongoing studies to contribute to the assessment, monitoring, and conservation of biodiversity along elevations across different mountains, ecosystems, and biological taxa. Contributions of mountain biodiversity studies on different dimensions (genes, species, and ecosystems) and spatial-temporal scales are welcome.

Prof. Dr. Jian Zhang
Dr. Jie Liu
Prof. Dr. Xiaolei Huang
Dr. Shengbin Chen
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

10 pages, 2338 KiB  
Article
Topographical Influence on Snag Distribution in a Subtropical Forest in South China
by Yifei Ma, Zhipeng Chen, Shuyu Wang, Haoyou Lin, Lei Kan, Weijing Du, Zhiyao Su and Lu Zhang
Forests 2023, 14(5), 997; https://doi.org/10.3390/f14050997 - 11 May 2023
Viewed by 1267
Abstract
Snags are highly important for many wildlife species and ecological processes. In this study, we analyzed the relationship between snags and topographic factors in a secondary forest plot in South China. Data on 544 snags were collected and recorded from 236 subplots in [...] Read more.
Snags are highly important for many wildlife species and ecological processes. In this study, we analyzed the relationship between snags and topographic factors in a secondary forest plot in South China. Data on 544 snags were collected and recorded from 236 subplots in a permanent plot (400 subplots). The frequency of Castanopsis carlesii and Schima superba was higher than that of other species. The snags derived mostly from saplings and small trees, and the presence of snags decreased as the DBH and height increased after 25 years of logging. The snags displayed an aggregated spatial pattern distribution, which was strongly correlated with elevation, slope steepness, and slope aspect (p < 0.05), as revealed by canonical correspondence analysis (CCA); however, the response of snags varied with topographic factors. Our results demonstrate that topography is an important factor that affects the snag spatial distribution in the subtropical secondary forest. These results will further improve our understanding of forest dynamics and provide guidance for forest management and biodiversity conservation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity along Elevational Gradients: Insights from Multiple Taxa)
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18 pages, 6686 KiB  
Article
Seeing Trees from Drones: The Role of Leaf Phenology Transition in Mapping Species Distribution in Species-Rich Montane Forests
by Meichen Jiang, Jiaxin Kong, Zhaochen Zhang, Jianbo Hu, Yuchu Qin, Kankan Shang, Mingshui Zhao and Jian Zhang
Forests 2023, 14(5), 908; https://doi.org/10.3390/f14050908 - 27 Apr 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1701
Abstract
The complex topography of subtropical montane forests favors the coexistence of diverse plant species, making these species-rich forests a high priority for biodiversity monitoring, prediction, and conservation. Mapping tree species distribution accurately in these areas is an essential basis for biodiversity research and [...] Read more.
The complex topography of subtropical montane forests favors the coexistence of diverse plant species, making these species-rich forests a high priority for biodiversity monitoring, prediction, and conservation. Mapping tree species distribution accurately in these areas is an essential basis for biodiversity research and is often challenging due to their complex structure. Remote sensing has widely been used for mapping tree species, but relatively little attention has been paid to species-rich montane forests. In this study, the capability of high-resolution UAV remote sensing imagery for mapping six tree species, standing dead trees, and canopy gaps was tested in a subtropical montane forest at an elevation of 816~1165 m in eastern China. Spectral, spatial geometrical, and textural features in a specific phenological period when obvious color differences among the leaves of different species were extracted, and four object-based classification algorithms (K-nearest neighbor (KNN), classification and regression tree (CART), support vector machine (SVM), and random forest (RF)) were used for tree species classification. We found that: (1) mapping tree species distribution using low-cost UAV RGB imagery in a specific leaf phenological period has great application potential in subtropical montane forests with complex terrain. (2) Plant spectral features in the leaf senescence period contributed significantly to species classification, while the contribution of textural features was limited. The highest classification accuracy was 83% using KNN with the combination of spectral and spatial geometrical features. (3) Topographical complexity had a significant impact on mapping species distribution. The classification accuracy was generally higher in steep areas, especially in the low slope area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity along Elevational Gradients: Insights from Multiple Taxa)
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13 pages, 2299 KiB  
Article
Environmental Gradients and Vegetation Types Alter the Effects of Leaf Traits on the Dominance of Woody Angiosperm Species
by Jieyang Zhou, Xiaomei Kang, Yanjun Liu, Lijie Duan, Haiyan Bu, Weiqin Li, Aoran Zhang, Yanan Li and Wei Qi
Forests 2023, 14(5), 866; https://doi.org/10.3390/f14050866 - 23 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1232
Abstract
Leaf traits can reflect plant photosynthetic capacity, resource utilization strategy and adaptability to the environment. However, whether species’ leaf traits are tightly related to the functioning of their community and how that relationship varies with environmental gradients remain largely unexplored. We measured 6 [...] Read more.
Leaf traits can reflect plant photosynthetic capacity, resource utilization strategy and adaptability to the environment. However, whether species’ leaf traits are tightly related to the functioning of their community and how that relationship varies with environmental gradients remain largely unexplored. We measured 6 leaf traits, including petiole fineness (PF), specific leaf area (SLA), leaf area (LA), leaf length–width ratio (LLWR), leaf nitrogen content (LN) and leaf phosphorus content (LP), of 733 populations (415 species) of 19 woody angiosperm communities in the eastern Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau across multiple climatic zones or vegetation types. Through meta-analysis and relative importance analysis, the relationship between leaf traits of species and their community dominance and its change with environments were analyzed. The results showed that species dominance was correlated positively with their LA and LP, suggesting that species with high light interception and resource utilization capacity can easily become dominant species in woody angiosperm communities. Along the altitudinal gradient, the effect of PF and SLA on species dominance increased and changed significantly in their pattern, from positive or nonsignificant in temperate forests to negative in alpine and subalpine shrubs, suggesting that increasing petiole mechanical support and lamina protection cost is a dominant leaf growth strategy in stressful high-altitude environments. Our findings demonstrate that the demand for efficient light acquisition and/or utilization and species adaptability or tolerance to specific environmental stress are key mechanisms by which leaf traits govern community composition and functioning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity along Elevational Gradients: Insights from Multiple Taxa)
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17 pages, 2557 KiB  
Article
Exploration of Soil Microbial Diversity and Community Structure along Mid-Subtropical Elevation Gradients in Southeast China
by Nan Yang, Yuchao Wang, Boran Liu, Jiangbao Zhang, Jiani Hua, Dong Liu, Parag Bhople, Yirong Zhang, Huiguang Zhang, Chenhui Zhang, Honghua Ruan and Weifeng Wang
Forests 2023, 14(4), 769; https://doi.org/10.3390/f14040769 - 8 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2090
Abstract
Climate change is altering the abundance and distributions of natural communities in mountainous ecosystems, but the variations of soil microbial communities and their driving factors along elevation gradients at high altitudinal mid-subtropical zones have received limited attention. Such information is needed for a [...] Read more.
Climate change is altering the abundance and distributions of natural communities in mountainous ecosystems, but the variations of soil microbial communities and their driving factors along elevation gradients at high altitudinal mid-subtropical zones have received limited attention. Such information is needed for a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem’s response to intensifying climate changes. In this study, using Illumina sequencing, we investigated the shift in soil microbial diversity and community composition at eight evergreen broadleaf forest sites, which ranged from a low of 550 to a high of 1038 m above sea level (m a.s.l.) on Wuyi Mountain in Southeast China. Significant (p < 0.05) differences were observed only in the community structure of bacteria and fungi between the low and high elevation levels of forests, but not in their alpha-diversity indices. Soil bacterial diversity was significantly correlated with plant Shannon index. Likewise, plant richness and diversity modified soil bacterial community structures along the two elevations and were the best predictors. Soil pH was the main edaphic factor driving the fungal diversity across elevations, whereas inconsistency in the fungal trophic mode did not allow the identification of a determinant factor for soil fungal community structure. The variations of the predominant fungal trophic guilds, such as the symbiotrophs and pathotrophs, along elevation gradients were due to the plant richness and diversity prevailing at the low and high elevation levels of forest sites. The findings of this study reveal the soil microbial community dynamics and the local regulators across elevations on Wuyi mountain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity along Elevational Gradients: Insights from Multiple Taxa)
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12 pages, 3105 KiB  
Article
Carbon Sink Limitation Determines the Formation of the Altitudinal Upper Limit of an Evergreen Oak in Eastern China
by Xijin Zhang, Kun Song and Ellen Cieraad
Forests 2023, 14(3), 597; https://doi.org/10.3390/f14030597 - 17 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1323
Abstract
Temperature is a critical environmental factor determining the upper limits of evergreen broadleaved tree taxa. However, whether carbon source or carbon sink limitation shapes this limit is not yet fully understood. We studied a subtropical evergreen oak (Cyclobalanopsis gracilis) at the [...] Read more.
Temperature is a critical environmental factor determining the upper limits of evergreen broadleaved tree taxa. However, whether carbon source or carbon sink limitation shapes this limit is not yet fully understood. We studied a subtropical evergreen oak (Cyclobalanopsis gracilis) at the northern limit of its distributional range. Along an elevational/temperature gradient towards its upper limit, we surveyed the variations in non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations of C. gracilis adults for 3 years. Additionally, a carbon balance manipulation experiment of debudding and defoliation was done to C. gracilis seedlings close to the upper distributional limit, aiming at investigating the changes in NSC concentrations and growth rates in different treatment groups. Our results showed that increasing elevation or decreasing temperature did not affect the trends of NSC concentration in twigs, old branches, or trunks of adults, nor did carbon balance manipulations (debudding or defoliation) of seedlings have a significant effect on the growth, while defoliation decreased NSC concentration in twigs. These results suggest that carbon sink limitation is the key physiological mechanism underlying low temperature in the shaping of this dominant evergreen broadleaved tree species in eastern China. Therefore, the formation of upper limits in evergreen oaks is most likely the result of a direct low-temperature restriction on meristematic activity and tissue formation instead of the result of insufficient carbon supply. More studies with expanded sample sizes are needed on other evergreen broadleaved tree species growing at their upper limits to confirm the carbon sink limitation hypothesis and reveal the detailed mechanisms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity along Elevational Gradients: Insights from Multiple Taxa)
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