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Elevation gradients of species-density: historical and prospective views



Studies of elevation clines in diversity and composition of ecological communities date back to the origins of biogeography. A modern resurgence of interests in these elevational clines is likely to contribute important insights for developing a more general theory of species diversity. In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of geographical clines in diversity, the research programme for montane biogeography should include statistically rigorous tests of apparent patterns, comparisons of patterns among regions and taxonomic or ecological groups of species, and analyses of clines in environmental variables concurrent with biogeographical surveys. The conceptual framework for this research programme should be based on the assumption that elevational gradients in species diversity result from a combination of ecological and evolutionary processes, rather than the presumed independent effects of one overriding force. Given that montane ecosystems are hot spots of biological diversity, an expanded and integrated programme for biogeographic surveys in montane regions should provide valuable insights for conservation biologists.