Environmental factors driving the spatial distribution pattern of venerable trees in Sichuan Province, China

Chunping XIE, Meng LI, Chi Yung JIM, Dawei LIU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Venerable trees are important natural resources and cultural heritage, offering historical, ecological, social and economic value. However, global warming and anthropogenic activities have threatened their welfare and survival. A comprehensive understanding of their current and future spatial patterns, vis-á-vis environmental conditions, can inform the co-management of sustainable resource use and conservation. We employed the existing spatial occurrence data and environmental variables (bioclimate and elevation) to simulate the optimal habitats for venerable trees in China’s Sichuan Province. We evaluated the current and future climate scenarios of 2100 with double CO₂ concentration. The BIOCLIM and QGIS spatial analyses assessed the primary factors of geographical distribution. The results identified 10,720 venerable trees from 123 species, 81 genera and 42 families. Cupressus funebris dominated, with the maximum importance value, followed by Ginkgo biloba, Ficus virens var. sublanceolata, and Phoebe zhennan. The elevation distribution of tree abundance and species richness demonstrated a unimodal pattern, skewing to the low-elevation end, with a concentration in the 600–1500 m low-medium altitude. The majority of trees and excellent habitats were found in eastern Sichuan with a less harsh terrain and climate. The bio3 (isothermality) and bio7 (temperature annual range) factors significantly influenced tree occurrence. Temperature imposed a greater effect on distribution than moisture under the current climate scenario. For the future climate-change scenario, the suitable habitats were predicted to maintain an overall stable pattern, with largely contiguous expansions of better habitats. However, climate warming would shrink the excellent habitats on the plains. The findings can inform strategies and guidelines for venerable-tree conservation in Sichuan. Furthermore, vulnerable areas could be identified. The future range expansion sites could be enlisted to cultivate new trees to replenish the venerable-tree pool. Habitat patches that remain sustainable could provide refugia with the potential for protected-area designation. Copyright © 2022 by the authors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3581
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


Xie, C., Li, M., Jim, C. Y., & Liu, D. (2022). Environmental factors driving the spatial distribution pattern of venerable trees in Sichuan Province, China. Plants, 11(24). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11243581


  • Heritage tree
  • Species range
  • Climate change scenario
  • Bioclimatic factor
  • Elevation factor
  • Tree conservation


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