Spatiotemporal maintenance of flora in the Himalaya biodiversity hotspotCurrent knowledge and future perspectives

Authors Organisations
  • Moses C. Wambulwa(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
    South Eastern Kenya University
  • Richard Milne(Author)
    University of Edinburgh
  • Zeng‐Yuan Wu(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
  • Robert A. Spicer(Author)
    Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
    Open University
  • Jim Provan(Author)
  • Ya‐Huang Luo(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
  • Guang‐Fu Zhu(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
    University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Wan‐Ting Wang(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
    University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Hong Wang(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
  • Lian‐Ming Gao(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
  • De‐Zhu Li(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
    University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Jie Liu(Author)
    Kunming Institute of Botany
Type Review article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10794-10812
Number of pages19
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number16
Early online date17 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2021
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Mountain ecosystems support a significant one-third of all terrestrial biodiversity, but our understanding of the spatiotemporal maintenance of this high biodiversity remains poor, or at best controversial. The Himalaya hosts a complex mountain ecosystem with high topographic and climatic heterogeneity and harbors one of the world's richest floras. The high species endemism, together with increasing anthropogenic threats, has qualified the Himalaya as one of the most significant global biodiversity hotspots. The topographic and climatic complexity of the Himalaya makes it an ideal natural laboratory for studying the mechanisms of floral exchange, diversification, and spatiotemporal distributions. Here, we review literature pertaining to the Himalaya in order to generate a concise synthesis of the origin, distribution, and climate change responses of the Himalayan flora. We found that the Himalaya supports a rich biodiversity and that the Hengduan Mountains supplied the majority of the Himalayan floral elements, which subsequently diversified from the late Miocene onward, to create today's relatively high endemicity in the Himalaya. Further, we uncover links between this Miocene diversification and the joint effect of geological and climatic upheavals in the Himalaya. There is marked variance regarding species dispersal, elevational gradients, and impact of climate change among plant species in the Himalaya, and our review highlights some of the general trends and recent advances on these aspects. Finally, we provide some recommendations for conservation planning and future research. Our work could be useful in guiding future research in this important ecosystem and will also provide new insights into the maintenance mechanisms underpinning other mountain systems.


  • biodiversity hotspot, climate change, elevational gradient, Himalayan flora, mountain ecosystem, spatiotemporal diversification