Multiple Spatial Scale Analysis of the Niche Characteristics of the Rhododendron dauricum Plant Communities in Northeast China
This study aims to verify the concept of niches at multiple spatial scales in plant communities. To this end, we analyzed the niche characteristic of Rhododendron dauricum plant communities in Northeast China at three spatial scales. At the local scale, we calculated the Importance Value (IV) of species in five communities in the north of the Da Hinggan Mountains. At the intermediate scale, we examined five communities in their entirety, calculated the niche breadth of the species, and integrated niche overlap and interspecific association to analyze interspecific relationships. Further, the generalized additive model (GAM) was used to analyze the impact of topography and soil factors on niche characteristics. At the regional scale, we analyzed the geographical distribution of dominant species of R. dauricum plant communities in Northeast China and used principal component analysis (PCA) to analyze the impact of geographical and climate factors on species distribution. The results show that at the local scale, the IV of the species in each community varies widely. At the intermediate scale, species with a wide niche breadth tend to have a high value for IV. Larix gmelinii, Betula platyphylla, R. dauricum, Ledum palustre, and Vaccinium vitis-idaea had a relatively wide niche breadth and a high niche overlap, and the interspecific associations were almost all positive. Elevation and soil nutrients were the most dominant environmental factors. At the regional scale, species with a wide niche breadth tend to have a wide range of distribution, and temperature and precipitation were the most dominant environmental factors. This study suggests that the niche characteristics at three scales are both related and different. Niche characteristics at the local scale were various and labile, and niche characteristics at the intermediate and regional scales were relatively regular. These results show some degree of consistency with previous studies from an evolutionary perspective. The action mechanisms of these communities are related to differences in the dominant environmental factors. In addition, the integration of niche overlap and interspecific association determine interspecific relationships more accurately.