Genetic diversity is crucial for plants to respond to global climate change, and exploring relationships between genetic diversity and climatic factors may help predict how global climate change will shape the genetic diversity of plants in the future. So far, however, the extent and magnitude of the impact of climatic factors on the genetic diversity of plants has not been clarified. We collected data from 68 published papers on two widely used measures of genetic diversity of populations (average expected heterozygosity (He) and average observed heterozygosity (Ho)) and on localities of populations of 79 vascular plants, and extracted data on 19 climatic factors from WorldClim. We then explored the relationships between measures of genetic diversity and climatic factors using linear regressions. He of plant populations was significantly correlated with climatic factors in 58.7% (44) of the 75 species that used He as a measure of genetic diversity, and Ho was correlated with climatic factors in 65.1% (41) of the 63 species that used this genetic diversity measure. In general, Mean Temperature of Wettest Quarter, Precipitation Seasonality, Precipitation of Driest Quarter and Temperature Seasonality played a vital role in shaping He, and Ho was mostly correlated with Precipitation of Warmest Quarter, Mean Temperature of Wettest Quarter, Precipitation of Driest Quarter and Precipitation of Driest Month. Also, the proportion of the significant correlations between genetic diversity of populations and climatic factors was higher for woody than for herbaceous species, and different climatic factors played different roles in shaping genetic diversity of these two growth forms. Our results suggest that climate may play an important role in shaping genetic diversity of plant populations, that climatic change in the future may alter genetic diversity of plants, and that genetic diversity of different plant forms may respond to climatic change differently.
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