Permafrost wetlands are one of the most sensitive plant communities in response to global warming. Global warming could induce natural plant communities to shift into cooler climate zones, or extirpate. To understand how plant communities in permafrost wetlands are affected by global warming, we examined the patterns of plant species diversity in the 24 permafrost wetlands in the Great Hing’an Mountains along a latitudinal gradient. This gradient was characterized by a northward decline in mean annual temperature (Δ = 3.5°C) and mean annual precipitation (Δ = 38.7 mm). Our results indicated that latitudinal patterns in species diversity existed in the permafrost wetlands. The numbers of family, genus and species, the Gleason index and Shannon-Wiener index for shrubs decreased linearly with decreasing latitude, but increased for herbaceous plants. The latitudinal patterns in species diversity had influenced strongly by temperature. Simple linear regression yielded about 2 decreases in shrub number and 9 increases in herbaceous species number with an increase of mean annual temperature by 1°C, with 0.33 decreases in shrub diversity and 0.29 increases in herbaceous species diversity. If temperature warms 3.7°C by 2100, herbaceous plants might increase in the permafrost wetlands, with species number increasing 48% or 6 times and species diversity increasing 40% or 2 times; and some shrub species might decrease and even disappear in part of the areas with lower latitude, with species number decreasing 50–100% and species diversity decreasing 69–100%. The permafrost wetlands in the Great Hing’an Mountains might continue degenerating and shift northward with global warming over the next century.
Russian Journal of Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 27, 2011
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