Large-scale patterns of tree species richness and the metabolic theory of ecology

The metabolic theory of ecology (MTE) endeavours to explain ecosystem structure and function in terms of the effects of temperature and body size on metabolic rate. In a recent paper (Wang et al., 2009, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106, 13388), we tested the MTE predictions of species richness using tree distributions in eastern Asia and North America. Our results supported the linear relationship between log-transformed species richness and the inverse of absolute temperature predicted by the MTE, but the slope strongly depends on spatial scale. The results also indicate that there are more tree species in cold climate at high latitudes in North America than in eastern Asia, but the reverse is true in warm climate at low latitudes. Qian & Ricklefs (2011, Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20, 362365) recently questioned our data and some of the analyses. Here we reply to them, and provide further analyses to show that their critiques are primarily based on unsuitable data and subjective conjecture.