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Human activities have opposing effects on distributions of narrow-ranged and widespread plant species in China

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  • Wu-Bing Xu, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Jens-Christian Svenning
  • Guo-Ke Chen, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing
  • ,
  • Ming-Gang Zhang, Shanxi University
  • ,
  • Ji-Hong Huang, Chinese Academy of Forestry
  • ,
  • Bin Chen, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden
  • ,
  • Alejandro Ordonez
  • Ke-Ping Ma, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences

Human activities have shaped large-scale distributions of many species, driving both range contractions and expansions. Species differ naturally in range size, with small-range species concentrated in particular geographic areas and potentially deviating ecologically from widespread species. Hence, species' responses to human activities may be influenced by their geographic range sizes, but if and how this happens are poorly understood. Here, we use a comprehensive distribution database and species distribution modeling to examine if and how human activities have affected the extent to which 9,701 vascular plants fill their climatic potential ranges in China. We find that narrow-ranged species have lower range filling and widespread species have higher range filling in the human-dominated southeastern part of China, compared with their counterparts distributed in the less human-influenced northwestern part. Variations in range filling across species and space are strongly associated with indicators of human activities (human population density, human footprint, and proportion of cropland) even after controlling for alternative drivers. Importantly, narrow-ranged and widespread species show negative and positive range-filling relationships to these human indicators, respectively. Our results illustrate that floras risk biotic homogenization as a consequence of anthropogenic activities, with narrow-ranged species becoming replaced by widespread species. Because narrow-ranged species are more numerous than widespread species in nature, negative impacts of human activities will be prevalent. Our findings highlight the importance of establishing more protected areas and zones of reduced human activities to safeguard the rich flora of China.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Pages (from-to)26674–26681
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

    Research areas

  • Biotic homogenization, Land use, Plant species distribution, Range filling, Range size, BIODIVERSITY, plant species distribution, RICHNESS, SIZE, PATTERNS, HABITAT DISTURBANCE, biotic homogenization, EUROPEAN PLANTS, NICHE BREADTH, range filling, BIOTIC HOMOGENIZATION, land use, range size, LAND-USE, CLIMATE

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