Understanding biodiversity patterns on islands has long been a central aim in ecology and conservation biology. Island-specific biogeographical processes play substantial roles in the formation of endemic biota. Here, we examined how climate niche conservatism and geohistorical factors are interactively associated with in situ diversification of Tertiary relict flora in the east Asian continental islands. We generated two novel datasets for species distribution and phylogeny that included all of the known vascular plant species in Japan (5575). Then we tested phylogenetic signal of climatic tolerance, in terms of absolute minimum temperature and water balance, and explored environmental predictors of phylogenetic structure (evolutionary derivedness and clustering) of species assemblages. Although phylogenetic signal of climatic tolerance was significant across the phylogeny of most species, the strength of climatic niche conservatism differed among ferns, gymnosperms, angiosperm trees, and angiosperm herbs. For angiosperm trees, cold temperatures acted as environmental filters that generated phylogenetic derivedness/clustering of species assemblages. For fern and angiosperm herb species, however, phylogenetic properties were not associated with climatic harshness. These contrasting patterns among groups reflected climate niche evolution in vascular plants with different growth forms and traits; for example, diversification of angiosperm trees (but not fern and herb) occurred in response to historical climatic cooling. More importantly, geographical constraints contributed to evolutionary radiation that resulted from isolation by distance from the continent or by elevation. Quaternary climate change was also associated with clade-specific radiation in refugial habitats. The degree to which geographical, geological, and palaeoclimatic variables explain the phylogenetic structure underscores the importance of isolation- and habitat-stability-related geohistorical processes in driving in situ diversification despite climatic niche conservatism. We propose that the highly endemic flora of the east Asian islands resulted from the interplay of idiosyncratic regional factors, and ecological and evolutionary processes, such as climate niche assembly and adaptive/nonadaptive radiation.
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