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Precipitation and potential evapotranspiration determine the distribution patterns of threatened plant species in Sichuan Province, China

Update time: 01/22/2022
A fundamental goal of ecologists is to determine the large-scale gradients in species richness. The threatened plants are the priority of such studies because of their narrow distribution and confinement to a specific habitat. Studying the distribution patterns of threatened plants is crucial for identifying global conservation prioritization. In this study, the richness pattern of threatened plant species along spatial and elevation gradients in Sichuan Province of China was investigated, considering climatic, habitat-heterogeneity (HHET), geometric constraint and human-induced factors. The species richness pattern was analyzed, and the predictor variables, including mean annual temperature (MAT), mean annual precipitation (MAP), potential evapotranspiration (PET), HHET, and disturbance (DIST), to species richness were linked using the geographical distribution data of threatened species compiled at a spatial resolution of 20 kmx20 km. Generalized linear models and structural equation modelling were used to determine the individual and combined effects of each variable on species richness patterns. Results showed a total of 137 threatened plant species were distributed between 200 and 4800 m.a.s.l. The central region of the province harbors the highest species diversity. MAP and PET profoundly explained the richness pattern. Moreover, the significant role of DIST in the richness patterns of threatened plants was elucidated. These findings could help determine the richness pattern of threatened plant species in other mountainous regions of the world, with consideration of the impact of climate change.