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Richness of plant communities plays a larger role than climate in determining responses of species richness to climate change

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DOI

  • Qi Wang, Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Zhenhua Zhang, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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  • Rui Du, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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  • Shiping Wang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tibet University
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  • Jichuang Duan, Binhai Research Institute in Tianjin
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  • Amy Marie Iler, Chicago Botanic Garden
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  • Shilong Piao, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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  • Caiyun Luo, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Lili Jiang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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  • Wangwang Lv, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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  • Lirong Zhang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Fandong Meng, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Ji Suonan, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Yaoming Li, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Bowen Li, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Peipei Liu, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Tsechoe Dorji, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Zhezhen Wang, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
  • ,
  • Yinnian Li, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Mingyuan Du, NARO
  • ,
  • Huakun Zhou, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Xinquan Zhao, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Yanfen Wang, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Experimental warming in situ suggests that warming could lead to a loss of biodiversity. However, species that remain in situ and experience climate change will interact with species tracking climate change, which could also affect patterns of biodiversity. The relative contribution of species gains and losses to net changes in species richness is still unclear. We use transplanted plant communities to test the hypothesis that both the change in climate and ecological communities tracking climate change will influence how species richness responds to climate change. Three intact alpine plant communities were reciprocally transplanted to create scenarios in which species experienced warmer and wetter conditions (transferred to lower elevations) and cooler and drier conditions (transferred to higher elevations) over 10 years on the Tibetan Plateau. Communities transplanted into the same elevation as controls represent species tracking climate change. Transferring to lower elevations generally caused a net increase in richness and a higher rate of gains relative to the control plots; the magnitude of this effect depended on the specific elevation. Transferring to higher elevations lead to either net increases or decreases in richness and gains, depending on elevation. Species gains predicted much more variation in changes in species richness (50%) than did species loss (9%). Species richness at the receptor site and the donor site were both important predictors of variation in species richness, and the abiotic environment did not explain additional variation. Changes in cover of dominant plant species in response to transfers did not predict changes in species richness, species gain or species loss. Our results suggest that species gains from species tracking climate change at the receptor sites, rather than species loss from the donor sites, predicted changes in species richness. Synthesis. Warming experiments with physical barriers to dispersal may overestimate the negative effect of warming on plant diversity by not accounting for species gains. Our study highlights the importance of biotic factors in addition to the abiotic environment, when considering how climate change will affect plant diversity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ecology
Volume107
Issue4
Pages (from-to)1944-1955
Number of pages12
ISSN0022-0477
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • alpine meadows, biodiversity, climate change experiment, elevation gradient, reciprocal transplant, species gain, species loss

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