The relative importance of space compared to topography increases from rare to common tree species across latitude

Aim: Understanding how spatial distributions of rare and common species are associated with environmental and spatial processes is essential to understanding community assembly. We addressed the following questions: (a) does the relative importance of space and topography vary from rare to common tree species? (b) Are the contributions of topography and space equal? (c) Are the variances explained by topography or space correlated with elevational ranges (ER) at the local scale? (d) Does cell-size influence those postulated associations?

Location: China and the Americas

Major taxa studied: Tree species

Methods: We partitioned the variation in species richness and composition of rare and common tree species by topography and space across a range of extents and grain sizes in eight communities. We calculated contribution ratio (CR) between space and topography to quantify their relative importance. We employed Kendall's rank correlation to determine the relation between CR and commonness. Mixed effect models were used to identify the influence of cell-size on the results.

Results: The majority of CR values were positively related to increasing commonness, especially for composition. The explained variances by space were always higher than that by topography regardless of commonness. At local scale, variances explained by space or topography were not correlated with ER.

Main conclusions: Our results indicate that the relative importance of space compared to topography increases from rare to common species across forests. We suggest that future studies of community assembly need to account for both space and topography to adequately describe differences in rare and common species assembly mechanisms at range of spatial extents and grain sizes.

Yue-Hua Hu, Daniel J. Johnson, Xiang-Cheng Mi, Xu-Gao Wang, Wan-Hui Ye, Yi-De Li, Ju-Yu Lian, & Min Cao
Journal of Biogeography