J Syst Evol

• Research Articles •    

Integration of hotspot identification, gap analysis, and niche modeling supports the conservation of Chinese threatened higher plants

Tian-Tian Xue1,2, Xu-Dong Yang1,2, Qin Liu1,3, Fei Qin1,2, Wen-Di Zhang1,2, Steven B. Janssens4,5, and Sheng- Xiang Yu1,2*   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China
    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3 College of Forestry, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Changsha 410004, China
    4 Meise Botanic Garden, Nieuwelaan 38, BE-1860 Meise, Belgium
    5 Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium
  • Received:2021-11-10 Accepted:2022-06-19 Online:2022-06-22


A significant fraction of higher plants in China are threatened due to dramatic landscape transformation and increasing climate change. However, the conservation effectiveness of threatened higher plants (THPs) and their response to climate change are still underexplored to date. Based on the latest list of THPs in China, we obtained 102 593 occurrence records with latitude and longitude for 3858 THPs. By integrating the distribution patterns of three biodiversity indexes (i.e., species richness, species complementarity, and weighted endemism) and 10 plant categories, we identified hotspots for THPs and calculated the conservation effectiveness of nature reserves. We then selected 1959 THPs to project the shift of species richness and range sizes under climate change (representative concentration pathway [RCP] 2.6 and RCP 8.5). In total, 16 hotspot areas covering 7.38% of Chinese land area and containing 91.73% of THPs were identified. Current nature reserves protected 35.05% of hotspots, 73.07% of all THPs, and 56.64% of narrow-ranged species. By the 2070s, the species richness of THPs were predicted to decrease in Southeast and Central China, and 42.42% (RCP 2.6) and 51.40% (RCP 8.5) of the 1959 THPs would confront habitat contraction. Future conservation efforts should focus on the conservation gaps and carry out targeted conservation for THPs with narrow distribution range. In order to cope with climate change, the hotspots with relatively low species loss can serve as important areas to contain current species diversity and the areas with high species gain offer opportunities for ex-situ conservation of THPs.

Key words: hotspots, niche modeling, spatial conservation, species complementarity, species richness, threatened species, weighted endemism