- Latitudinal and altitudinal patterns of plant community diversity on mountain summits across the tropical Andes
- Volume | Issue number
- 40 | 12
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
The high tropical Andes host one of the richest alpine floras of the world, with exceptionally high levels of endemism and turnover rates. Yet, little is known about the patterns and processes that structure altitudinal and latitudinal variation in plant community diversity. Herein we present the first continental‐scale comparative study of plant community diversity on summits of the tropical Andes. Data were obtained from 792 permanent vegetation plots (1 m2) within 50 summits, distributed along a 4200 km transect; summit elevations ranged between 3220 and 5498 m a.s.l. We analyzed the plant community data to assess: 1) differences in species abundance patterns in summits across the region, 2) the role of geographic distance in explaining floristic similarity and 3) the importance of altitudinal and latitudinal environmental gradients in explaining plant community composition and richness. On the basis of species abundance patterns, our summit communities were separated into two major groups: Puna and Páramo. Floristic similarity declined with increasing geographic distance between study‐sites, the correlation being stronger in the more insular Páramo than in the Puna (corresponding to higher species turnover rates within the Páramo). Ordination analysis (CCA) showed that precipitation, maximum temperature and rock cover were the strongest predictors of community similarity across all summits. Generalized linear model (GLM) quasi‐Poisson regression indicated that across all summits species richness increased with maximum air temperature and above‐ground necromass and decreased on summits where scree was the dominant substrate. Our results point to different environmental variables as key factors for explaining vertical and latitudinal species turnover and species richness patterns on high Andean summits, offering a powerful tool to detect contrasting latitudinal and altitudinal effects of climate change across the tropical Andes.
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