Elevational sensitivity in an Asian “hotspot”: moth diversity across elevational gradients in tropical, sub-tropical and sub-alpine China
South-western China is widely acknowledged as a biodiversity ‘hotspot’: there are high levels of diversity and endemism and many environments are under significant anthropogenic threats not least climate warming. Here, we explore diversity and compare response patterns of moth assemblages among three elevational gradients established within different climatic bioregions - tropical rain forest, sub-tropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and sub-alpine coniferous forest in Yunnan Province, China. We hypothesised that tropical assemblages would be more elevationally stratified than temperate assemblages and tropical species would be more elevationally restricted than those in the temperate zone. Contrary to our hypothesis, the moth fauna was more sensitive to elevational differences within the temperate transect, followed by sub-tropical and tropical transects. Moths in the cooler and more seasonal temperate sub-alpine gradient showed stronger elevation-decay beta diversity patterns and more species were restricted to particular elevational ranges. Our study suggests that moth assemblages are under threat from future climate change and sub-alpine rather than tropical faunas may be the most sensitive to climate change. These results improve our understanding of China’s biodiversity and can be used to monitor future changes to herbivore assemblages in a ‘hotspot’ of biodiversity.