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Patterns of maximum height of endemic woody seed plants in relation to environmental factors in China

Yu, Ruoyun, Liu, Hua, Huang, Jihong, Lu, Xinghui, Zang, Runguo, Ma, Keping, Guo, Zhongjun, Ding, Yi, Li, Huan, Liu, Yibo, Li, Qian
Ecosphere 2018 v.9 no.6 pp. e02319
altitude, climate, community structure, ecological function, plant height, population distribution, soil, temperature, variance, China
The maximum height of plants is an important trait determining community structure and ecosystem function. However, the variation in maximum plant height along large‐scale environmental gradients is still largely unknown. Here, data of maximum height for 2796 endemic woody seed plant species and 23 environmental variables (climate, space, and soil) were collected in China. Distribution patterns of maximum plant height were detected, and the relative importance of different environmental variables to maximum plant height was also determined. The maximum height of 2439 Chinese endemic woody seed plant species was lower than 16 m. The number of endemic woody seed plant species decreased gradually with increasing maximum plant height. At the county level, the mean maximum plant height (MMPH) of endemic woody seed plant species had an increasing trend from northwest to southeast across China. The environmental factors explained 19% of the variance in MMPH, among which climate explained more variation in MMPH than did space and soil. The most important predictors of MMPH were mean temperature of the warmest quarter, annual mean temperature, temperature seasonality, and altitude. These results demonstrate that the maximum height of endemic woody seed plants across China strongly responds to temperature. Our findings provide the first study elucidating the patterns in maximum height of Chinese endemic woody seed plants and identifying the most influential environmental factors for the variation in this trait, which will contribute to the development of sounder theory on the macropatterns of plant distribution.