While the floras of eastern Asia (EA) and eastern North America (ENA) share numerous genera, they have drastically different species richness. Despite an overall similarity in the quality of their temperate climates, the climate of EA is more spatially heterogeneous than that of ENA. Spatial environmental heterogeneity has been found to play a key role in influencing species richness in some regions. Here, we tested the following hypotheses: (a) EA species will occupy larger climatic niches than their ENA congeners, (b) congeners of EA‐ENA disjunct genera will occupy statistically equivalent climatic niches, and (c) congeners of EA‐ENA disjunct genera will occupy more similar climatic niches than expected by their respective physiographic context.
North America and Asia.
Predictions generated by ecological niche models (ENMs) were compared for 88 species across 31 EA‐ENA disjunct genera. ENM predictions were assessed for geographic and ecological breadth. Tests for niche equivalency and similarity were performed for congeneric species pairs to determine if species of disjunct genera have experienced niche conservatism or divergence.
EA species tend to occupy greater amounts of climatic niche space than their close relatives in ENA. Over two‐thirds of the conducted niche comparisons show that EA‐ENA congeners either occupy equivalent climatic niche space within these broader climatic regimes or occupy non‐equivalent niches that are as similar as expected given their physiographic contexts.
EA species tend to occupy larger climatic niches, and congeners of EA‐ENA disjunct genera tend to occupy equivalent/similar niche space within their respective distributions, with differences in occupied niches possibly due to their respective physiographic contexts, highlighting how niche‐neutral processes and niche conservatism may affect the distributions of disjunct species.