A global map of plant diversity — ScienceDaily
Why are there more plant species in some places than others? Why is diversity highest in the tropics? What is the link between biodiversity and environmental conditions? To help answer these questions, an international team led by researchers from the University of Göttingen has reconstructed the distribution of plant diversity around the world and made high-resolution predictions about the location and number of plant species. . This will support conservation efforts, help protect plant diversity and assess changes in light of the current biodiversity and climate crises. Their research has been published in New Phytologist.
Based on a unique global dataset of 830 regional floras and the distribution of 300,000 plant species compiled at the University of Göttingen over ten years, researchers modeled the relationship between plant diversity and environmental conditions at using modern machine learning techniques. By incorporating the relatedness of species to each other, they were able to take into account the evolutionary history of plants found in each geographic region. The models were then used to predict ongoing plant diversity around the world taking into account past and present geographic and climatic conditions.
The models capture how diversity varies along environmental gradients and help identify global centers of plant diversity. The current climate and other environmental factors have emerged as the main drivers of plant diversity. The highest concentrations of plant diversity are projected in environmentally heterogeneous tropical areas such as Central America, the Andes and the Amazon, southeastern Brazil, parts of tropical Africa, Madagascar, the southern China, Indochina and the Malay Archipelago as well as certain Mediterranean regions such as Cape Africa and locations around the Mediterranean Sea. Modern machine learning techniques and newly compiled plant distribution data were used to design the models. The resulting global plant diversity maps provide a solid foundation for large-scale biodiversity monitoring and research into the origin of plant diversity and support future global biodiversity assessments and environmental policies.
Professor Holger Kreft, from the Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography group at the University of Göttingen, points out: “Global forecasts show in unprecedented precision and detail how plant diversity is distributed on our planet.” Dr Patrick Weigelt, from the University of Göttingen, explains: “Knowing where to expect a number of species under current conditions allows researchers to assess future changes due to climate and land use change. , as well as identify the impacts of overexploitation and the introduction of invasive species.”
The new plant diversity prediction model (based on the Global Inventory of Floras and Traits — GIFT database) is available here: https://https://gift.uni-goettingen.de/shiny/predictions/