Aims Dominant tree species control the structure and function of forest ecosystems. Delimiting plant functional types (PFTs) based on dominant tree species, therefore, can assist in understanding the functional, structural framework and species distributions of an ecosystem. Straddling the subtropical and warm-temperate zones of the Funiu Mountain National Natural Reserve, East China, is representative of north-south climatic transition zones. The tree layer is composed mainly of a few dominant species whose abundances vary along altitudinal gradients.
Methods Using community ecology techniques, we sampled the north and south slopes of Funiu Mountain. We calculated species importance values for 37 tree species and identified dominant species. χ2tests, together with association coefficient and percentage co-occurrence, were used to measure interspecific associations of the dominant tree species. PFTs were defined according to interspecific associations and altitudinal distributions of the dominant species.
Important findings Four dominant tree species (Quercus variabilis, Q. glandulifera, Q. acutidentata, Pinus armandi) formed the basis of four PFTs: Ⅰ. Q. variabilis, Q. aliena, Aldizzia kalkora, Castanea seguinii (under 1 000 m); Ⅱ. Q. glandulifera, Platycarya strobilacea, Pistacia chinensis (1 100-1 400 m); Ⅲ. Q. acutidentata, Carpinus cordata, Toxicodendron vernicifluum (1 400-1 800 m) and Ⅳ. Pinus armandi, P. tabulaeformis, Abelia biflora, Betula platyphylla, B. albo-sinensis (above 1 800 m). These PFTs differ in many morphological traits such as leaf size and phellem (cork) thickness, Further eco-physiological studies are required to better understand these differences.