Aim: This paper aims at determining how different floristic elements (e.g. cosmopolitan, tropical, and temperate) change with latitude and major climate factors, and how latitude affects the floristic relationships between East Asia and the other parts of the world. Location: East Asia from the Arctic to tropical regions, an area crossing over 50?? of latitudes and covering the eastern part of China, Korea, Japan and the eastern part of Russia. Methods: East Asia is divided into forty-five geographical regions. Based on the similarity of their world-wide distributional patterns, a total of 2808 indigenous genera of seed plants found in East Asia were grouped into fourteen geographical elements, belonging to three major categories (cosmopolitan, tropical and temperate). The 50??-long latitudinal gradient of East Asia was divided into five latitudinal zones, each of c. 10??. Phytogeographical relationships of East Asia to latitude and climatic variables were examined based on the forty-five regional floras. Results: Among all geographical and climatic variables considered, latitude showed the strongest relationship to phytogeographical composition. Tropical genera (with pantropical, amphi-Pacific tropical, palaeotropical, tropical Asia-tropical Australia, tropical Asia-tropical Africa and tropical Asia geographical elements combined) accounted for c. 80% of the total genera at latitude 20??N and for c. 0% at latitude 55-60??N. In contrast, temperate genera (including holarctic, eastern Asia-North America, temperate Eurasia, temperate Asia, Mediterranean, western Asia to central Asia, central Asia and eastern Asia geographical elements) accounted for 15.5% in the southernmost latitude and for 80% at 55-60??N, from where northward the percentage tended to level off. The proportion of cosmopolitan genera increased gradually with latitude from 5% at the southernmost latitude to 21% at 55-60??N, where it levelled off northward. In general, the genera present in a more northerly flora are a subset of the genera present in a more southerly flora. Main conclusions: The large-scale patterns of phytogeography in East Asia are strongly related to latitude, which covaries with several climatic variables such as temperature. Evolutionary processes such as the adaptation of plants to cold climates and current and past land connections are likely responsible for the observed latitudinal patterns.
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Large-scale phytogeographical patterns in East Asia in relation to latitudinal and climatic gradients