Evolutionary and ecological causes of species richness patterns in North American angiosperm trees

Hong Qian, John J. Wiens, Jian Zhang, Yangjian Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Climate and evolutionary factors (e.g. diversification, time-for-speciation, niche conservatism) are both thought to be major drivers of species richness in regional assemblages. However, few studies have simultaneously investigated the relative effects of climate and evolutionary factors on species richness across a broad geographical extent. Here, we assess their relative effects on species richness of angiosperm trees across North America. Species richness of angiosperm trees in 1175 regional assemblages were related to climate and phylogenetic structure using a structural equation modeling (SEM) approach. Climate was quantified based on the mean temperature of the coldest month and mean annual precipitation. Evolutionary factors (time-for-speciation vs diversification) were inferred from phylogeny-based measures of mean root distance, phylogenetic species variability, and net relatedness index. We found that at the continental scale, species richness is correlated with temperature and precipitation with approximately similar strength. In the SEM with net relatedness index and phylogenetic species variability and with all the 1175 quadrats, the total direct effect size of phylogenetic structure on species richness is greater than the total direct effect size of climate on species richness by a factor of 3.7. The specific patterns of phylogenetic structure (i.e. greater phylogenetic distances in more species rich regions) are consistent with the idea that time and niche conservatism drive richness patterns in North American angiosperm trees. We conclude that angiosperm tree species richness in regional assemblages in North America is more strongly related to patterns of phylogenetic relatedness than to climatic variation. The results of the present study support the idea that climatic and evolutionary explanations for richness patterns are not in conflict, and that evolutionary processes explain both the relationship between climate and richness and substantial variation in richness that is independent of climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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