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Floristic similarity, diversity and endemism as indicators of refugia characteristics and needs in the West

February 12, 2016

The floras of mountain ranges, and their similarity, beta diversity and endemism, are indicative of processes of community assembly; they are also the initial conditions for coming disassembly and reassembly in response to climate change. As such, these characteristics can inform thinking on refugia. The published floras or approximations for 42 mountain ranges in the three major mountain systems (Sierra-Cascades, Rocky Mountains and Great Basin ranges) across the western USA and southwestern Canada were analysed. The similarity is higher among the ranges of the Rockies while equally low among the ranges of the Sierra-Cascades and Great Basin. Mantel correlations of similarity with geographic distance are also higher for the Rocky Mountains. Endemism is relatively high, but is highest in the Sierra-Cascades (due to the Sierra Nevada as the single largest range) and lowest in the Great Basin, where assemblages are allochthonous. These differences indicate that the geologic substrates of the Cascade volcanoes, which are much younger than any others, play a role in addition to geographic isolation in community assembly. The pattern of similarity and endemism indicates that the ranges of the Cascades will not function well as stepping stones and the endemic species that they harbor may need more protection than those of the Rocky Mountains. The geometry of the ranges is complemented by geology in setting the stage for similarity and the potential for refugia across the West. Understanding the geographic template as initial conditions for the future can guide the forecast of refugia and related monitoring or protection efforts.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Floristic similarity, diversity and endemism as indicators of refugia characteristics and needs in the West
DOI 10.1080/14888386.2015.1117989
Authors George P. Malanson, Dale L. Zimmerman, Daniel B. Fagre
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biodiversity
Series Number
Index ID 70168435
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center