Spatial phylogenetics of two topographic extremes of the Hengduan Mountains in southwestern China and its implications for biodiversity conservation. Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous attempts to elucidate the drivers of speciation mechanisms and spatial distribution patterns of biodiversity in mountain regions have treated different floras within a single geological region as one flora, ignoring the potential contributions of high habitat/ecosystem heterogeneity. Furthermore, current conservation strategies largely focus on forest ecosystems and/or specific flagship species, ignoring marginal ecosystems, leaving species in these ecosystems at risk. Here, we compared the spatial patterns of biodiversity and the potential drivers of these patterns in the river valley and subnival ecosystems of the Hengduan Mountains region (HDM) in southwestern China. Specifically, we compared spatial patterns of diversity, endemism, and threatened species in these ecosystems based on both traditional measurements and recent phylogenetic approaches. We then examined how those patterns were related to environmental factors and human activity in these same regions. We found that the middle-southern HDM supports the highest diversity and endemism for the river valley and subnival ecosystems; however, the distribution patterns of neo- and paleo-endemism in these two ecosystems differ. Regression models indicate that habitat diversity and paleo-climatic fluctuation are important drivers of diversity and endemism for these two ecosystems. Temperature and precipitation, however, showed different influences on the spatial patterns in different ecosystems. Categorical analysis of neo- and paleo-endemism (CANAPE) indicated that most endemism centers are not covered by current nature reserves. Moreover, the intensity of human activity is highest in the southern and southeastern HDM, which coincides with the distribution patterns of diversity, mixed-endemism and high-priority (and threatened) species. These findings suggest that different floras within a single geographic/floristic region respond differently to environmental factors and show different spatial phylogenetic patterns. We, therefore, recommend that future research into the drivers of biodiversity consider the contributions of various ecosystem types within a single geological region. This study also provides a theoretical basis for protecting habitat diversity. Our work confirms that current conservation efforts are insufficient to protect ecosystem diversity in the river valley and subnival ecosystems of the Hengduan Mountains. Therefore, we recommend the establishment of nature reserves in the regions identified in this study; furthermore, we strongly recommend improving current and establishing new management policies for biodiversity conservation in this region.

published proceedings

  • Plant Divers

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhang, Y., Qian, L., Spalink, D., Sun, L. u., Chen, J., & Sun, H.

citation count

  • 21

complete list of authors

  • Zhang, Yazhou||Qian, Lishen||Spalink, Daniel||Sun, Lu||Chen, Jianguo||Sun, Hang

publication date

  • June 2021