University of Oulu

Testolin, R, Attorre, F, Borchardt, P, et al. Global patterns and drivers of alpine plant species richness. Global Ecol Biogeogr. 2021; 30: 1218– 1231.

Global patterns and drivers of alpine plant species richness

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Author: Testolin, Riccardo1; Attorre, Fabio1; Borchardt, Peter2;
Organizations: 1Sapienza Univ Rome, Dept Environm Biol, Ple Aldo Moro 5, I-00185 Rome, RM, Italy.
2Univ Hamburg, Inst Geog, CEN Ctr Earth Syst Res & Sustainabil, Hamburg, Germany.
3Cuyahoga Cty Board Hlth, Parma, OH USA.
4Univ Free State, Dept Soil Crop & Climate Sci, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
5Martin Luther Univ Halle Wittenberg, Inst Biol Geobot & Bot Garden, Halle, Germany.
6German Ctr Integrat Biodivers Res iDiv, Leipzig, Germany.
7Masaryk Univ, Dept Bot & Zool, Fac Sci, Brno, Czech Republic.
8Czech Acad Sci, Inst Bot, Pruhonice, Czech Republic.
9Univ South Bohemia, Dept Bot, Fac Sci, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic.
10Univ Hamburg, Inst Plant Sci & Microbiol, Biodivers Evolut & Ecol Plants, Hamburg, Germany.
11Univ Bayreuth, Dept Plant Systemat, Bayreuth, Germany.
12Univ Zurich, Dept Systemat & Evolutionary Bot, Zurich, Switzerland.
13Russian Acad Sci, Siberian Branch, Cent Siberian Bot Garden, Novosibirsk, Russia.
14Univ Picardie Jules Verne, CNRS, UR Ecol & Dynam Syst Anthropises EDYSAN, UMR 7058, Amiens, France.
15Univ Iowa, Dept Geog & Sustainabil Sci, Iowa City, IA USA.
16Nat Biodivers Ctr, Leiden, Netherlands.
17Inst Cient Michael Owen Dillon, Arequipa, Peru.
18Univ Nacl Moquegua, Escuela Profes Ingn Ambiental, Pacocha, Moquegua, Peru.
19Univ Vienna, Dept Bot & Biodivers Res, Vienna, Austria.
20Polish Acad Sci, Bot Garden, Ctr Biol Div Conservat, Warsaw, Poland.
21Univ Opole, Inst Biol, Opole, Poland.
22Univ N Carolina, Dept Biol, Chapel Hill, NC 27515 USA.
23Univ Andes, Dept Civil & Environm Engn, Bogota, Colombia.
24Slovak Acad Sci, Inst Bot, Plant Sci & Biodivers Ctr, Bratislava, Slovakia.
25Charles Univ Prague, Dept Bot, Prague, Czech Republic.
26Bulgarian Acad Sci, Inst Biodivers & Ecosyst Res, Dept Plant & Fungal Divers & Resources, Sofia, Bulgaria.
27UFZ Helmholtz Ctr Environm Res, Dept Physiol Divers, Leipzig, Germany.
28Univ Oulu, Dept Ecol & Genet, Oulu, Finland.
29Manaaki Whenua Landcare Res, Lincoln, New Zealand.
30Univ Oviedo, Res Unit Biodivers CSUC UO PA, Mieres, Spain.
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-07-06


Aim: Alpine ecosystems differ in area, macroenvironment and biogeographical history across the Earth, but the relationship between these factors and plant species richness is still unexplored. Here, we assess the global patterns of plant species richness in alpine ecosystems and their association with environmental, geographical and historical factors at regional and community scales.

Location: Global.

Time period: Data collected between 1923 and 2019.

Major taxa studied: Vascular plants.

Methods: We used a dataset representative of global alpine vegetation, consisting of 8,928 plots sampled within 26 ecoregions and six biogeographical realms, to estimate regional richness using sample-based rarefaction and extrapolation. Then, we evaluated latitudinal patterns of regional and community richness with generalized additive models. Using environmental, geographical and historical predictors from global raster layers, we modelled regional and community richness in a mixed-effect modelling framework.

Results: The latitudinal pattern of regional richness peaked around the equator and at mid-latitudes, in response to current and past alpine area, isolation and the variation in soil pH among regions. At the community level, species richness peaked at mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, despite a considerable within-region variation. Community richness was related to macroclimate and historical predictors, with strong effects of other spatially structured factors.

Main conclusions: In contrast to the well-known latitudinal diversity gradient, the alpine plant species richness of some temperate regions in Eurasia was comparable to that of hyperdiverse tropical ecosystems, such as the páramo. The species richness of these putative hotspot regions is explained mainly by the extent of alpine area and their glacial history, whereas community richness depends on local environmental factors. Our results highlight hotspots of species richness at mid-latitudes, indicating that the diversity of alpine plants is linked to regional idiosyncrasies and to the historical prevalence of alpine ecosystems, rather than current macroclimatic gradients.

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Series: Global ecology and biogeography. A journal of macroecology
ISSN: 1466-822X
ISSN-E: 1466-822X
ISSN-L: 1466-822X
Volume: 30
Issue: 6
Pages: 1218 - 1231
DOI: 10.1111/geb.13297
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: B.J.-A. was funded by the Marie Curie Clarín-COFUND program of the Principality of Asturias-EU (ACB17-26) and the Spanish Research Agency (AEI/10.13039/501100011033). M.C. was funded by the Czech Science Foundation (project no. 19-28491X). S.P.S. was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (UK), the University of Zurich, the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant P2ZHP3_161988) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grants HE 6726 5/1; JU 2748/6-1). G.P.M. was funded by U.S. National Science Foundation award 1853665. J.D. was funded by the Ministerstvo Školství, Mládeže a Tělovýchovy Inter-Excellence project (LTAUSA18007). S.K.W. was funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's Strategic Science Investment Fund. We also appreciate the support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for funding sPlot - The Global Vegetation Database as one of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) (DFG FZT 118, 202548816) platforms, and the organization of three workshops through the Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences (sDiv) calls. H.B., S.H., U.J. and F.M.S. appreciate support by iDiv. This work is part of ALPVEG, a research network on alpine vegetation ecology (
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Global Ecology and Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.