, Volume 165, Issue 2, pp 169-181

Distribution, species diversity and life-form spectra of plant communities along an altitudinal gradient in the northern slopes of Qilianshan Mountains, Gansu, China

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Abstract

We studied the distribution pattern, species diversity and life-formspectra of plant communities along an altitudinal gradient in the mid-sectionofthe northern slopes of Qilianshan Mountains by means of multivariate analyses.Two data sets (167 species × 75 plots, 10 environmental variables ×75 plots), originated from the fieldworks in 1998–1999, were subjected toTWINSPAN and DCCA, resulting in 8 major plant communities: 1)Asterothamnus centraliasiaticus–Halogetonarachnoideus desert grassland on azonal substrates from 1450 to 1600m and 2) zonal Reaumuria soogorica desertgrassland on gravels from 1470 to 1900 m; 3) Stipaprzewalskii–Stipa purpurea montane grassland from 2200 to 2900m; 4) Polygonum viviparum alpine grasslandfrom 2900 to 3700 m; 5) Caraganastenophylla–Ajaniafruticulosa dry-warm shrubland from 2350 to 2800 m; 6)Sabina przewalskii mid-wet warm forest from 2700 to 3300m; 7) Picea crassifolia cold coniferousforestfrom 2450 to 3200 m; 8) Caragana jubatawet-cold alpine shrubland from 3100 to 3700 m. Species diversityand species richness of both grasslands and forests peaked at the intermediateportion of the elevational gradient. Evenness might be strongly influenced byeither biotic or abiotic factors at a local scale, while seems quiteindependentof an elevational gradient at landscape scales. Beta-diversity decreased from1500 to 3700 m, indicating that species turnover declined withincreased elevation. Both richness of life-form and total species richness in agiven altitudinal belt (gamma-diversity) peaked at intermediate elevations,while relative species richness of different life-form varied differently alongthe altitudinal gradient.