Species packing and the latitudinal gradient in beta-diversity

Ke Cao, Richard Condit, Xiangcheng Mi, Lei Chen, Haibao Ren, Wubing Xu, David F R P Burslem, Chunrong Cai, Min Cao, Li-Wan Chang, Chengjin Chu, Fuxin Cui, Hu Du, Sisira Ediriweera, C S V Gunatilleke, I U A N Gunatilleke, Zhanqing Hao, Guangze Jin, Jinbo Li, Buhang LiYide Li, Yankun Liu, Hongwei Ni, Michael J O'Brien, Xiujuan Qiao, Guochun Shen, Songyan Tian, Xihua Wang, Han Xu, Yaozhan Xu, Libing Yang, Sandra L Yap, Juyu Lian, Wanhui Ye, Mingjian Yu, Sheng-Hsin Su, Chia-Hao Chang-Yang, Yili Guo, Xiankun Li, Fuping Zeng, Daoguang Zhu, Li Zhu, I-Fang Sun, Keping Ma, Jens-Christian Svenning

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The decline in species richness at higher latitudes is among the most fundamental patterns in ecology. Whether changes in species composition across space (beta-diversity) contribute to this gradient of overall species richness (gamma-diversity) remains hotly debated. Previous studies that failed to resolve the issue suffered from a well-known tendency for small samples in areas with high gamma-diversity to have inflated measures of beta-diversity. Here, we provide a novel analytical test, using beta-diversity metrics that correct the gamma-diversity and sampling biases, to compare beta-diversity and species packing across a latitudinal gradient in tree species richness of 21 large forest plots along a large environmental gradient in East Asia. We demonstrate that after accounting for topography and correcting the gamma-diversity bias, tropical forests still have higher beta-diversity than temperate analogues. This suggests that beta-diversity contributes to the latitudinal species richness gradient as a component of gamma-diversity. Moreover, both niche specialization and niche marginality (a measure of niche spacing along an environmental gradient) also increase towards the equator, after controlling for the effect of topographical heterogeneity. This supports the joint importance of tighter species packing and larger niche space in tropical forests while also demonstrating the importance of local processes in controlling beta-diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20203045
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1948
Early online date14 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021


  • sampling bias
  • niche specialisation
  • latitude
  • beta-diversity
  • gamma-diversity
  • species packing


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  • Species packing and the latitudinal gradient in local beta-diversity

    Cao, K. (Contributor), Condit, R. (Contributor), Mi, X. (Contributor), Chen, L. (Contributor), Xu, W. (Contributor), Burslem, D. (Contributor), Cai, C. (Contributor), Cao, M. (Contributor), Chang, L. (Contributor), Chu, C. (Contributor), Du, H. (Contributor), Ediriweera, S. (Contributor), Gunatilleke, C. S. V. (Contributor), Gunatilleke, I. U. A. N. (Contributor), Hao, Z. (Contributor), Li, J. (Contributor), Jin, G. (Contributor), Li, B. (Contributor), Liu, Y. (Contributor), Li, Y. (Contributor), O'Brien, M. J. (Contributor), Qiao, X. (Contributor), Ni, H. (Contributor), Shen, G. (Contributor), Wang, X. (Contributor), Tian, S. (Contributor), Yang, L. (Contributor), Xu, H. (Contributor), Xu, Y. (Contributor), Yap, S. L. (Contributor), Ye, W. (Contributor), Lian, J. (Contributor), Yu, M. (Contributor), Chang-Yang, C. (Contributor), Su, S. (Contributor), Guo, Y. (Contributor), Zeng, F. (Contributor), Li, X. (Contributor), Sun, I. (Contributor), Zhu, L. (Contributor), Zhu, D. (Contributor), Ma, K. (Contributor) & Svenning, J. (Contributor), DRYAD, 1 Jan 2020


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