Historical factors shaped species diversity and composition of Salix in eastern Asia

Ambient energy, niche conservatism, historical climate stability and habitat heterogeneity hypothesis have been proposed to explain the broad-scale species diversity patterns and species compositions, while their relative importance have been controversial. Here, we assessed the relative contributions of contemporary climate, historical climate changes and habitat heterogeneity in shaping Salix species diversity and species composition in whole eastern Asia as well as mountains and lowlands using linear regressions and distance-based redundancy analyses, respectively. Salix diversity was negatively related with mean annual temperature. Habitat heterogeneity was more important than contemporary climate in shaping Salix diversity patterns, and their relative contributions were different in mountains and lowlands. In contrast, the species composition was strongly influenced by contemporary climate and historical climate change than habitat heterogeneity, and their relative contributions were nearly the same both in mountains and lowlands. Our findings supported niche conservatism and habitat heterogeneity hypotheses, but did not support ambient energy and historical climate stability hypotheses. The diversity pattern and species composition of Salix could not be well-explained by any single hypothesis tested, suggesting that other factors such as disturbance history and diversification rate may be also important in shaping the diversity pattern and composition of Salix species.