The relationship between niche breadth and phylogenetic characteristics of eight species of rhubarb on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Asia

Kaiyang Chen,Bo Wang, Chen Chen,Guoying Zhou


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The relationship between spatial distribution and phylogeny has been widely debated in recent decades. To understand biogeographic and evolutionary history relationships and to explore the interspecific similarities and phylogenetic correlations of niche characteristics, we collected and recorded all distribution points for eight species of rhubarb on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, used different methods to describe the ecological niche, and explored the relationship between phylogeny, ecological niche, and distribution range. The results reveal that: (1) the ranges of optimal environmental variables for species with close kinship are not exactly the same, ecologically similar species are not necessarily sister species, and the overlap of rhubarb has no significant correlation with phylogeny. Therefore, the impact of ecological dimensions on species formation is greater than that of geographical latitude for the eight species of rhubarb. (2) Among the eight species of rhubarb, the breadth of ecological niche is positively correlated with the current suitable habitat area and negatively correlated with fluctuations in future suitable habitat area. In the future, except for Rheum tanguticum and Rheum palmatum, the suitable planting areas for the other six species of rhubarb will decrease as greenhouse gas emissions concentrations and time increase. Therefore, species with smaller ecological niches are at a greater risk of habitat loss compared to species with larger ecological niches. (3) In both existing and future distribution prediction models of rhubarb, we observed that both the widely distributed Rheum spiciforme and the niche narrow Rheum nobile, all eight species of rhubarb are present in the Hengduan Mountains, based on our analysis, we propose that the Hengduan Mountains should be regarded as a priority conservation area for rhubarb, to preserve the species' biodiversity. Our study lays the groundwork for identifying evolutionary trends in ecological specialization.
niche breadth,niche overlap,phylogenetic,range overlap,rhubarb
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