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The edaphic control of plant diversity

  • Author(s): Hulshof, CM
  • Spasojevic, MJ
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13151
Abstract

Background: The central thesis of plant ecology is that climate determines the global distribution of vegetation. Within a vegetation type, however, finer-scale environmental features, such as the physical and chemical properties of soil (edaphic variation), control patterns of plant diversity and distributions. Aims: Here, we review the literature to provide a mechanistic framework for the edaphic control of plant diversity. First, we review three examples where soils have known, prevalent effects on plant diversity: during soil formation, on unusual soils and in regions with high edaphic heterogeneity. Second, we synthesize how edaphic factors mediate the relative importance of the four key processes of community assembly (speciation, ecological drift, dispersal and niche selection). Third, we review the potential effects of climate change in edaphically heterogeneous regions. Finally, we outline key knowledge gaps for understanding the edaphic control of plant diversity. In our review, we emphasize floras of unusual edaphic areas (i.e., serpentine, limestone, granite), because these areas contribute disproportionately to the biodiversity hotspots of the world. Taxa: Terrestrial plants. Location: Global. Conclusion: Edaphic variation is a key driver of biodiversity patterns and influences the relative importance of speciation, dispersal, ecological drift, niche selection and interactions among these processes. Research is still needed to gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms by which edaphic variation influences these community assembly processes, and unusual soils provide excellent natural systems for such tests. Furthermore, the incorporation of edaphic variation into climate change research will help to increase the predictive power of species distribution models, identify potential climate refugia and identify species with adaptations that buffer them from climate change.

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