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The relationship between niche breadth and range size of beech (Fagus) species worldwide


Qiong Cai

Erik Welk

Chengjun Ji

Wenjing Fang

Francesco M. Sabatini

Jianxiao Zhu

Jiangling Zhu

Zhiyao Tang

Fabio Attorre

Juan A. Campos




Jiri Dolezal


Hamid Gholizadeh

Adrian Indreica

Ute Jandt

Dirk N. Karger

Jonathan Lenoir

Robert K. Peet

Remigiusz Pielech

Michele De Sanctis

Jens Christian Svenning

Cindy Q. Tang

Ioannis Tsiripidis

Wolfgang Willner

Kubota Yasuhiro

Jingyun Fang

Helge Bruelheide


Aim: This work explores whether the commonly observed positive range size–niche breadth relationship exists for Fagus, one of the most dominant and widespread broad-leaved deciduous tree genera in temperate forests of the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, we ask whether the 10 extant Fagus species’ niche breadths and climatic tolerances are under phylogenetic control. Location: Northern Hemisphere temperate forests. Taxon: Fagus L. Methods: Combining the global vegetation database sPlot with Chinese vegetation data, we extracted 107,758 relevés containing Fagus species. We estimated biotic and climatic niche breadths per species using plot-based co-occurrence data and a resource-based approach, respectively. We examined the relationships of these estimates with range size and tested for their phylogenetic signal, prior to which a Random Forest (RF) analysis was applied to test which climatic properties are most conserved across the Fagus species. Results: Neither biotic niche breadth nor climatic niche breadth was correlated with range size, and the two niche breadths were incongruent as well. Notably, the widespread North American F. grandifolia had a distinctly smaller biotic niche breadth than the Chinese Fagus species (F. engleriana, F. hayatae, F. longipetiolata and F. lucida) with restricted distributions in isolated mountains. The RF analysis revealed that cold tolerance did not differ among the 10 species, and thus may represent an ancestral, fixed trait. In addition, neither biotic nor climatic niche breadths are under phylogenetic control. Main Conclusions: We interpret the lack of a general positive range size–niche breadth relationship within the genus Fagus as a result of the widespread distribution, high among-region variation in available niche space, landscape heterogeneity and Quaternary history. The results hold when estimating niche sizes either by fine-scale co-occurrence data or coarse-scale climate data, suggesting a mechanistic link between factors operating across spatial scales. Besides, there was no evidence for diverging ecological specialization within the genus Fagus.


Cai, Q., Welk, E., Ji, C., Fang, W., Sabatini, F. M., Zhu, J., …Bruelheide, H. (2021). The relationship between niche breadth and range size of beech (Fagus) species worldwide. Journal of Biogeography, 48(5), 1240-1253.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 16, 2021
Publication Date May 1, 2021
Deposit Date Apr 30, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 4, 2021
Journal Journal of Biogeography
Print ISSN 0305-0270
Electronic ISSN 1365-2699
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 5
Pages 1240-1253
Keywords Ecology; Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Public URL
Publisher URL


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