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      Plant diversity in a changing world: Status, trends, and conservation needs

      review-article

      Plant Diversity

      KeAi Publishing

      Land plants, Diversity patterns, Threats, In situ conservation, ex situ conservation

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          Abstract

          The conservation of plants has not generated the sense of urgency—or the funding—that drives the conservation of animals, although plants are far more important for us. There are an estimated 500,000 species of land plants (angiosperms, gymnosperms, ferns, lycophytes, and bryophytes), with diversity strongly concentrated in the humid tropics. Many species are still unknown to science. Perhaps a third of all land plants are at risk of extinction, including many that are undescribed, or are described but otherwise data deficient. There have been few known global extinctions so far, but many additional species have not been recorded recently and may be extinct. Although only a minority of plant species have a specific human use, many more play important roles in natural ecosystems and the services they provide, and rare species are more likely to have unusual traits that could be useful in the future. The major threats to plant diversity include habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, overexploitation, invasive species, pollution, and anthropogenic climate change. Conservation of plant diversity is a massive task if viewed globally, but the combination of a well-designed and well-managed protected area system and ex situ gap-filling and back-up should work anywhere. The most urgent needs are for the completion of the global botanical inventory and an assessment of the conservation status of the 94% of plant species not yet evaluated, so that both in and ex situ conservation can be targeted efficiently. Globally, the biggest conservation gap is in the hyperdiverse lowland tropics and this is where attention needs to be focused.

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          Most cited references54

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          Plant diversity in tropical forests: a review of mechanisms of species coexistence

          Evidence concerning mechanisms hypothesized to explain species coexistence in hyper-diverse communities is reviewed for tropical forest plants. Three hypotheses receive strong support. Niche differences are evident from non-random spatial distributions along micro-topographic gradients and from a survivorship-growth tradeoff during regeneration. Host-specific pests reduce recruitment near reproductive adults (the Janzen-Connell effect), and, negative density dependence occurs over larger spatial scales among the more abundant species and may regulate their populations. A fourth hypothesis, that suppressed understory plants rarely come into competition with one another, has not been considered before and has profound implications for species coexistence. These hypotheses are mutually compatible. Infrequent competition among suppressed understory plants, niche differences, and Janzen-Connell effects may facilitate the coexistence of the many rare plant species found in tropical forests while negative density dependence regulates the few most successful and abundant species.
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            Global patterns and determinants of vascular plant diversity.

            Plants, with an estimated 300,000 species, provide crucial primary production and ecosystem structure. To date, our quantitative understanding of diversity gradients of megadiverse clades such as plants has been hampered by the paucity of distribution data. Here, we investigate the global-scale species-richness pattern of vascular plants and examine its environmental and potential historical determinants. Across 1,032 geographic regions worldwide, potential evapotranspiration, the number of wet days per year, and measurements of topographical and habitat heterogeneity emerge as core predictors of species richness. After accounting for environmental effects, the residual differences across the major floristic kingdoms are minor, with the exception of the uniquely diverse Cape Region, highlighting the important role of historical contingencies. Notably, the South African Cape region contains more than twice as many species as expected by the global environmental model, confirming its uniquely evolved flora. A combined multipredictor model explains approximately 70% of the global variation in species richness and fully accounts for the enigmatic latitudinal gradient in species richness. The models illustrate the geographic interplay of different environmental predictors of species richness. Our findings highlight that different hypotheses about the causes of diversity gradients are not mutually exclusive, but likely act synergistically with water-energy dynamics playing a dominant role. The presented geostatistical approach is likely to prove instrumental for identifying richness patterns of the many other taxa without single-species distribution data that still escape our understanding.
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              Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas.

              The rapid disruption of tropical forests probably imperils global biodiversity more than any other contemporary phenomenon. With deforestation advancing quickly, protected areas are increasingly becoming final refuges for threatened species and natural ecosystem processes. However, many protected areas in the tropics are themselves vulnerable to human encroachment and other environmental stresses. As pressures mount, it is vital to know whether existing reserves can sustain their biodiversity. A critical constraint in addressing this question has been that data describing a broad array of biodiversity groups have been unavailable for a sufficiently large and representative sample of reserves. Here we present a uniquely comprehensive data set on changes over the past 20 to 30 years in 31 functional groups of species and 21 potential drivers of environmental change, for 60 protected areas stratified across the world’s major tropical regions. Our analysis reveals great variation in reserve ‘health’: about half of all reserves have been effective or performed passably, but the rest are experiencing an erosion of biodiversity that is often alarmingly widespread taxonomically and functionally. Habitat disruption, hunting and forest-product exploitation were the strongest predictors of declining reserve health. Crucially, environmental changes immediately outside reserves seemed nearly as important as those inside in determining their ecological fate, with changes inside reserves strongly mirroring those occurring around them. These findings suggest that tropical protected areas are often intimately linked ecologically to their surrounding habitats, and that a failure to stem broad-scale loss and degradation of such habitats could sharply increase the likelihood of serious biodiversity declines.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Plant Divers
                Plant Divers
                Plant Diversity
                KeAi Publishing
                2096-2703
                2468-2659
                24 May 2016
                February 2016
                24 May 2016
                : 38
                : 1
                : 10-16
                Affiliations
                [1]Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Menglun, Yunnan, 666303, China
                Author notes
                []Tel.: +86 18288059408 (mobile); fax: +86 6918715070. Corlett@ 123456xtbg.org.cn
                Article
                S2468-2659(16)30030-0
                10.1016/j.pld.2016.01.001
                6112092
                f3a88cac-1524-49cf-8750-58dab535b720
                Copyright © 2016 Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Publishing services by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of KeAi Communications Co., Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

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