Multitrophic diversity in a biodiverse forest is highly nonlinear across spatial scales

Andreas Schuldt, Tesfaye Wubet, François Buscot, Michael Staab, Thorsten Assmann, Martin Böhnke-Kammerlander, Sabine Both, Alexandra Erfmeier, Alexandra-Maria Klein, Keping Ma, Katherina Pietsch, Sabrina Schultze, Christian Wirth, Jiayong Zhang, Pascale Zumstein, Helge Bruelheide

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Subtropical and tropical forests are biodiversity hotspots, and untangling the spatial scaling of their diversity is fundamental for understanding global species richness and conserving biodiversity essential to human well-being. However, scale-dependent diversity distributions among coexisting taxa remain poorly understood for heterogeneous environments in biodiverse regions. We show that diversity relations among 43 taxa-including plants, arthropods and microorganisms-in a mountainous subtropical forest are highly nonlinear across spatial scales. Taxon-specific differences in β-diversity cause under- or overestimation of overall diversity by up to 50% when using surrogate taxa such as plants. Similar relationships may apply to half of all (sub)tropical forests-including major biodiversity hotspots-where high environmental heterogeneity causes high biodiversity and species turnover. Our study highlights that our general understanding of biodiversity patterns has to be improved-and that much larger areas will be required than in better-studied lowland forests-to reliably estimate biodiversity distributions and devise conservation strategies for the world's biodiverse regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10169
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Early online date10 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 10/11/2015

We thank the administration of the Gutianshan National Nature Reserve and members of the BEF-China consortium for support, the many people involved in the plant and arthropod censuses, and T. Fang, S. Chen, T. Li, M. Ohl and C.-D. Zhu for help with species identification. G. Seidler kindly calculated forest cover and T. Scholten and P. Kühn provided soil data. The study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 891/1, 891/2), the Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion (GZ 524, 592, 698, 699, 785 and 1020) and the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC 30710103907 and 30930005).


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