Disturbance of Dabao highway construction on plant species and soil nutrients in Longitudinal Range Gorge Region (LRGR) of Southwestern China
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- Cui, B., Zhao, S., Zhang, K. et al. Environ Monit Assess (2009) 158: 545. doi:10.1007/s10661-008-0605-y
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The disturbance of highway construction upon surrounding vulnerable ecosystems is a common threat in the Longitudinal Range Gorge Region of southwestern China. We evaluated the disturbance of highway on plant species richness and diversity and soil nutrients from adjacent to the highway to 300 m upslope and 100 m downslope in forests and grasslands by setting 12 belt transects in forests and grasslands (six belt transects and six control belt transects, respectively). The results showed that there were some significant variances in belt transects with respective control belt transects for species richness and diversity in both forests and grasslands. Species richness and diversity of trees were lower within a 50-m distance from the highway and more noticeable on the downslope portion. Species richness and diversity of shrubs and herbs appeared higher near highway edge. Both species richness and diversity of herbs were similar in forests. In addition, exotic species, such as Eupatorium adenophorum, were further from the road and more widely dispersed in grasslands. Soil nutrients except total potassium (TK) were lower in the downslope area adjacent to highway edge and showed a significant increase with increasing distance from the highway in both forests and grasslands. This indicates that grasslands acted as microhabitats for exotic species and are more easily to be invaded than forests, especially if disturbed. Once destroyed, plant species and soil nutrients will require a significant amount of time to be restored to control levels. This work illustrates that the effects extend considerably to distances upslope and downslope from the construction site. Given that these changes occurred relatively quickly, the study suggests that the environmental “footprint” grows far beyond the road and adjacent zone of disruption.