Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2023, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (5): 907-923.doi: 10.1007/s11442-023-2112-z

• Research Articles •     Next Articles

Latitudinal differentiation and patterns of temperate and subtropical plants in the Qinling-Daba Mountains

LIU Junjie1,2(), ZHANG Baiping1,*(), YAO Yonghui1, ZHANG Xinghang1,2, WANG Jing1,2, YU Fuqin1,2, LI Jiayu1,2   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2022-12-13 Accepted:2023-01-30 Online:2023-05-25 Published:2023-05-11
  • Contact: *Zhang Baiping (1963-), Professor, specialized in physical geography and applied GIS. E-mail:
  • About author:Liu Junjie (1995-), PhD Candidate, specialized in mountain geography and ecological environment. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Scientific and Technological Basic Resources Investigation Project(2017FY100900)


Geographically, the Qinling-Daba Mountains serve as the main body of the north-south transitional zone of China. However, the transitional patterns of their plant species still need to be clarified. This study analyzed latitudinal variations of plant species richness, relative importance values (RIV), and plant species abundance based on plant community field survey data for 163 sample sites along three north-south transect lines in the eastern, middle, and western parts of the study areas. The difference in RIV between subtropical and temperate species (SND-RIV) was selected to reveal the latitudinal interlacing pattern of northern and southern plant species. Along the eastern (Sanmenxia-Yichang), middle (Xi’an-Dazhou), and western (Tianshui-Guangyuan) transects, the richness and RIV of subtropical plant species increased while those of temperate plant species decreased from north to south. In the eastern transect, temperate plant species richness and RIV were the highest at Shennongjia and Funiu Mountain, respectively, because of their high elevations. In the middle transect, subtropical plant species richness and RIV were the highest in the Daba Mountains. In the western transect, richness and RIV were higher for subtropical than temperate plant species from the south of Longnan. The crisscrossing areas of northern and southern plant species were ~180 km, ~100 km, and ~60 km wide for the eastern, middle, and western transects, respectively, showing a narrowing trend from east to west. For the eastern and western transects, decreases in subtropical plant species distribution from south to north could be attributed to a decrease in mean annual precipitation in the same direction. However, for the middle transect, mean annual temperature had a slightly greater influence on plant species’ latitudinal distribution than the moisture index. This study provides a more solid scientific basis for future investigations of this key geographical boundary in China.

Key words: latitudinal plants variation, north-south climate dividing line, north-south transition zone of China, Qinling-Daba Mountains, transition pattern