Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (10): 1103-1112.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0070

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Effects of monsoon on distribution patterns of tropical plants in Asia

Chao JIANG, Ke TAN, Ming-Xun REN*()   

  1. Research Center for Terrestrial Biodiversity of the South China Sea, Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Forestry, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, China
  • Online:2017-12-24 Published:2017-10-10
  • Contact: Ming-Xun REN


Comparing with other regions, Asia is mostly dominated by the monsoon climate and tropical plants can be found at the furthest places away from the equator. Understanding the role of monsoon in the dispersal and evolution of tropical plants is helpful for exploring the distribution patterns of vegetation and mechanisms underlying the origin and maintenance of biodiversity in Asia. In summer, there are three types of monsoon in Asia, i.e. East Asia Monsoon, South Asia Monsoon, North-west Pacific Ocean Monsoon. The summer monsoon climate in Asia originated at about 40 Ma, when the early angiosperm evolved and started its diversification in Southeast Asia and South China. It suggested that the monsoon may facilitate the quick speciation and spread of early angiosperm. Monsoon climate facilitates the northward spread of Asia’s tropical plants and some tropical plants can be found even at Yarlung Zangbo River and the boundaries of Guizhou-Guangxi-Yunnan. Such effetcs largely change distribution patterns of zonal vegetation and even causes local vegetation types in some places with unusual topography such as tropical seasonal rainforests, monsoon rainforests, savanna and grassland along dry-hot valley in Southwest China, coastal savanna in West Hainan Island. The three summer monsoons interact at Southwest China and Indo-China Peninsula and these regions are dominated by limestone landscapes and high mountains with big rivers. Some Asia-endemic tropical taxa even formed a diversification and endemism center at this region, which may be a reason for the formation and maintenance of Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots with global warming, the monsoon may further promote the northward spread of tropical plants and may have fundamental effects on biodiversity and flora evolution in South China.

Key words: tropical monsoon rainforest, tropical seasonal rainforest, dispersal, speciation, karst

Table 1

Main characteristics of monsoons in Asia"

Monsoon type
Occurrence month
Affected area
Age (Ma)
Summer monsoon
East Asia monsoon;
(Southeast monsoon)
June to August
中国中部与南部; 日本南部; 朝鲜半岛
Center and South China; South Japan; Korea Peninsula
25-22 Sun & Wang, 2005
9-8 An et al., 2001
Northwest Pacific monsoon
May to September
中国南海及其沿岸地区; 东南亚含中南半岛
South China Sea and its coastal areas; Southeast Asia including Indo-China Peninsula
未知 Unknown Li et al., 2014
South Asia monsoon
(Southwest monsoon)
May to July
中国海南岛, 云南与广西南部; 印度和中南半岛
Hainan Island, Southern Yunnan and Guangxi of China; India and Indo-China Peninsula
20 Wu et al., 2013
9-8 An et al., 2001
冬季风 Winter monsoon 10月到次年2月
October to next February
中国北方与中部; 蒙古
North and Center China; Mongolia
2.6 An et al., 2001

Fig. 1

Asia summer monsoons and their affected areas (arrow indicates the main wind direction)."

Fig. 2

The distribution pattern of species richness and endemism of four typical tropical plant taxa in Asia. Black circles indicate regions with highest species richness and endemism. The species distribution information is obtained from and the map was drawn using DIVA-GIS7.5."

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