Separating the Effects of Environment and Space on Tree Species Distribution: From Population to Community

Lin, Guojun; Stralberg, Diana; Gong, Guiquan; Huang, Zhongliang; Ye, Wanhui; Wu, Linfang
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Quantifying the relative contributions of environmental conditions and spatial factors to species distribution can help improve our understanding of the processes that drive diversity patterns. In this study, based on tree inventory, topography and soil data from a 20-ha stem-mapped permanent forest plot in Guangdong Province, China, we evaluated the influence of different ecological processes at different spatial scales using canonical redundancy analysis (RDA) at the community level and multiple linear regression at the species level. At the community level, the proportion of explained variation in species distribution increased with grid-cell sizes, primarily due to a monotonic increase in the explanatory power of environmental variables. At the species level, neither environmental nor spatial factors were important determinants of overstory species' distributions at small cell sizes. However, purely spatial variables explained most of the variation in the distributions of understory species at fine and intermediate cell sizes. Midstory species showed patterns that were intermediate between those of overstory and understory species. At the 20-m cell size, the influence of spatial factors was stronger for more dispersal-limited species, suggesting that much of the spatial structuring in this community can be explained by dispersal limitation. Comparing environmental factors, soil variables had higher explanatory power than did topography for species distribution. However, both topographic and edaphic variables were highly spatial structured. Our results suggested that dispersal limitation has an important influence on fine-intermediate scale (from several to tens of meters) species distribution, while environmental variability facilitates species distribution at intermediate (from ten to tens of meters) and broad (from tens to hundreds of meters) scales.


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