Determinants of richness patterns differ between rare and common species: implications for Gesneriaceae conservation in China

Aim: Whether richness patterns and determinants are consistent between common and rare species remains controversial, and the answer is fundamental for the conservation of species in vulnerable habitats. Although effects of climate and geological history on species richness have been widely explored, their relative contribution among common and rare species is poorly understood. Here, using a valuable ornamental plant family Gesneriaceae, we evaluated how contemporary climate, habitat heterogeneity and long-term climate change affect the distribution of rare and common species. Additionally, we identified hotspots of Gesneriaceae diversity and evaluated its protection gap in China. Location: China. Methods: Distribution of Gesneriaceae was compiled at a spatial resolution of 50x50km. Species were grouped as rare and common based on the number of grid cells they occupied, and their richness patterns and hotspots were estimated separately. Generalized linear models and Random Forest were used to compare effects of different factors on species richness. Results: Richness of Gesneriaceae peaked in south-western China. The Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and Hengduan Mountains were identified as hotspots for overall and common species, while only the former was hotspot for rare species. Temperature seasonality, winter coldness and temperature change since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) dominated species richness patterns, but their relative effects differed between species range size. Temperature seasonality had strongest effects on richness of common species, whereas temperature change since the LGM was strongest for rare species. Neither current nor past precipitation affects richness patterns significantly. Main conclusions: Gesneriaceae species richness is strongly influenced by temperature changes. Specifically, rare and common species are primarily dominated by long- and short-term temperature changes, respectively. These findings suggest that most Gesneriaceae species may face high risk under future climate changes, and hence, more conservation efforts are urgently needed, especially in Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, which is hotspot of rare species.