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Elevational gradients of small mammal diversity on the northern slopes of Mt. Qilian, China

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ABSTRACT

Aim  Small mammal species richness and relative abundance vary along elevational gradients, but there are different patterns that exist. This study reports the patterns of distribution and abundance of small mammals along the broader elevational gradient of Mt. Qilian range.

Location  The study was conducted in the Mt. Qilian range, north-western China, from June to August 2001.

Methods  Removal trapping was conducted using a standardized technique at 7 sites ranging between 1600 and 3900 m elevation within three transects. Correlation, regression and graphical analyses were used to evaluate the diversity patterns along this elevational gradient.

Results   In total, 586 individuals representing 18 nonvolant small mammal species were collected during 20 160 trap nights. Species composition was different among the three transects with 6 (33%) of the species found only within one transect. Elevational distribution and relative abundance of small rodents showed substantial spatial variation, with only 2 species showing nonsignificant capture frequencies across elevations. Despite these variations, some general patterns of elevational distribution emerged: humped-shape relationships between species diversity and elevation were noted in all three transects with diversity peaks at middle elevations. In addition, relative abundance was negatively correlated with elevation.

Conclusions  Results indicate that maximum richness and diversity of nonvolant small mammals occurred at mid-elevations where several types of plants reached their maximum diversity and primary productivity, and where rainfall and humidity reached a maximum. It is demonstrated that the mid-elevation bulge is a general feature of at least a large portion of the biota on the Mt. Qilian range.

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