This article presents an analysis of plant species richness and diversity and its association with climatic and soil variables along a 1300-m elevation gradient on the Cerro Tláloc Mountain in the northern Sierra Nevada in Mexico. Two 1000-m2 tree sampling plots were created at each of 21 selected sampling sites, as well as two 250-m2 plots for shrubs and six 9-m2 plots for herbaceous plants. Species richness and diversity were estimated for each plant life form, and beta diversity between sites was estimated along the gradient. The relationship between species richness and diversity and environmental variables was modelled using simple linear correlation and regression trees. Species richness and diversity showed a unimodal pattern with a bias towards high values in the lower half of the elevation gradient under study. This response was consistent for all three life forms. Beta diversity increased steadily along the elevation gradient, being lower between contiguous sites at intermediate elevations and high – the species replacement rate was nearly 100%– between sites at the extremes of the gradient. Few species were adapted to the full spectrum of environmental variation along the elevation gradient studied. The regression tree suggests that differences in species richness are mainly influenced by elevation (temperature and humidity) and soil variables, namely A2 permanent wilting point, organic matter and horizon field capacity and A1 horizon Mg2+.
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