Review ARTICLE

Front. Genet., 12 February 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2014.00004

Evolutionary diversifications of plants on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Jun Wen1*, Jian-Qiang Zhang2, Ze-Long Nie3, Yang Zhong4,5 and Hang Sun3*
  • 1Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, MRC 166, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA
  • 2College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, China
  • 3Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China
  • 4Institute of Biodiversity Science and Geobiology, Tibet University, Lhasa, China
  • 5School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) is the highest and one of the most extensive plateaus in the world. Phylogenetic, phylogeographic, and ecological studies support plant diversifications on the QTP through multiple mechanisms such as allopatric speciation via geographic isolation, climatic oscillations and divergences, pollinator-mediated isolation, diploid hybridization and introgression, and allopolyploidy. These mechanisms have driven spectacular radiations and/or species diversifications in various groups of plants such as Pedicularis L., Saussurea DC., Rhododendron L., Primula L., Meconopsis Vig., Rhodiola L., and many lineages of gymnosperms. Nevertheless, much work is needed toward understanding the evolutionary mechanisms of plant diversifications on the QTP. Well-sampled biogeographic analyses of the QTP plants in the broad framework of the Northern Hemisphere as well as the Southern Hemisphere are still relatively few and should be encouraged in the next decade. This paper reviews recent evidence from phylogenetic and biogeographic studies in plants, in the context of rapid radiations, mechanisms of species diversifications on the QTP, and the biogeographic significance of the QTP in the broader context of both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere biogeography. Integrative multidimensional analyses of phylogeny, morphological innovations, geography, ecology, development, species interactions and diversifications, and geology are needed and should shed insights into the patterns of evolutionary assembly and radiations in this fascinating region.

Keywords: evolutionary radiations, Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, QTP, biogeography, allopatric speciation, vicariance

Citation: Wen J, Zhang J-Q, Nie Z-L, Zhong Y and Sun H (2014) Evolutionary diversifications of plants on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Front. Genet. 5:4. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00004

Received: 30 October 2013; Accepted: 06 January 2014;
Published online: 12 February 2014.

Edited by:

Federico Luebert, Universität Bonn, Germany

Reviewed by:

Jianquan Liu, Lanzhou University; Sichuan University, China
Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond, University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA

Copyright © 2014 Wen, Zhang, Nie, Zhong and Sun. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Jun Wen, Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, MRC 166, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA e-mail: wenj@si.edu; Hang Sun, Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204, China e-mail: hsun@mail.kib.ac.cn