Direct and indirect effects of environmental factors, spatial constraints, and functional traits on shaping the plant diversity of montane forests
Ting, Li et al. (2020), Direct and indirect effects of environmental factors, spatial constraints, and functional traits on shaping the plant diversity of montane forests, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4f4qrfj7m
Understanding the relative importance of the factors driving the patterns of biodiversity is a key research topic in community ecology and biogeography. However, the main drivers of plant species diversity in montane forests are still not clear. In addition, most existing studies make no distinction between direct and indirect effects of environmental factors, spatial constraints on plant biodiversity. Using data from 107 montane forest plots in Sichuan Giant Panda habitat, China, we quantified the direct and indirect effects of abiotic environmental factors, spatial constraints, and plant functional traits on plant community diversity. Our results showed significant correlations between abiotic environmental factors and trees (r = 0.10, P value = 0.001), shrubs (r = 0.19, P value = 0.001), or overall plant diversity (r = 0.18, P value = 0.001) in montane forests. Spatial constraints also showed significant correlations with trees, and shrubs. However, no significant correlations were found between functional traits and plant community diversity. Moreover, the diversity (richness and abundance) of shrubs, trees, and plant communities was directly affected by precipitation, latitude, and altitude. Mean annual temperature (MAT) had no direct effect on the richness of tree and plant communities. Further, MAT and precipitation indirectly affected plant communities via the tree canopy. The results revealed a stronger direct effect on montane plant diversity than indirect effect, suggesting that single-species models may be adequate for forecasting the impacts of climate factors in these communities. The shifting of tree canopy coverage might be a potential indicator for trends of plant diversity under climate change.