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Geographical ecology of the palms (Arecaceae): determinants of diversity and distributions across spatial scales

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  • Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity

Background The palm family occurs in all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. Palms are of high ecological and economical importance, and display complex spatial patterns of species distributions and diversity.
Scope This review summarizes empirical evidence for factors that determine palm species distributions, community composition and species richness such as the abiotic environment (climate, soil chemistry, hydrology and topography), the biotic environment (vegetation structure and species interactions) and dispersal. The importance of contemporary vs. historical impacts of these factors and the scale at which they function is discussed. Finally a hierarchical scale framework is developed to guide predictor selection for future studies.
Conclusions Determinants of palm distributions, composition and richness vary with spatial scale. For species distributions, climate appears to be important at landscape and broader scales, soil, topography and vegetation at landscape and local scales, hydrology at local scales, and dispersal at all scales. For community composition, soil appears important at regional and finer scales, hydrology, topography and vegetation at landscape and local scales, and dispersal again at all scales. For species richness, climate and dispersal appear to be important at continental to global scales, soil at landscape and broader scales, and topography at landscape and finer scales. Some scale–predictor combinations have not been studied or deserve further attention, e.g. climate on regional to finer scales, and hydrology and topography on landscape and broader scales. The importance of biotic interactions – apart from general vegetation structure effects – for the geographic ecology of palms is generally underexplored. Future studies should target scale–predictor combinations and geographic domains not studied yet. To avoid biased inference, one should ideally include at least all predictors previously found important at the spatial scale of investigation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Botany
Pages (from-to)1391-1416
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Research areas

  • Arecaceae, biotic interactions, climate, dispersal limitation, geographic ecology, hydrology, Palmae, spatial scale, species distributions, species richness, Soil, topography

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