Plant Ecology

, Volume 194, Issue 2, pp 157–177 | Cite as

An inventory of forest relicts in the pastures of Southern Tibet (Xizang A.R., China)

  • Georg MieheEmail author
  • Sabine Miehe
  • Martin Will
  • Lars Opgenoorth
  • La Duo
  • Tsering Dorgeh
  • Jianquan Liu
Original Paper


An inventory of isolated tree stands surrounded by desert pastures in Southern Tibet (A.R. Xizang, China) revealed more than 50 sites with vigorous trees of Juniperus convallium Rehder & E.H. Wilson and Juniperus tibetica Kom and additional more than 10 records where juniper trees had been destroyed between 1959–1976. The tree stands are not restricted to any specific habitat, and occur within an area stretching 650 km westwards from the current forest border of Southern Tibet. The trees are religious landmarks of the Tibetan Buddhists. The highest trees were found at an elevation of 4,860 m. Vegetation records, rainfall correlations and temperature data collected by local climate stations and successful reforestation trials since 1999 indicate that forest relicts fragmented through human interference could regenerate if current cattle grazing and deforestation practices are halted. The drought line of Juniperus forests in Southern Tibet is approximately 200–250 mm/a. A first pollen diagram from Lhasa shows forest decline associated with the presence of humans since at least 4,600 yr BP. The currently degraded commons developed in the last 600 yr. To date, no findings of remains of ancient forests in the Central Tibetan Highlands of the Changtang have been reported.


China Environmental change Forest history Habitat fragmentation Juniperus Kobresia Tibet 



The inventory was carried out within the framework of the Lhasa-Marburg University partnership programme supported since 2003 by the VW Foundation, in cooperation with the Tibet Plateau Biology Institute of Lhasa (1995–1999) and Institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xining, Lanzhou and Chengdu (1999–2004). The German Research Council generously supported all expeditions. Christiane Enderle (Marburg) prepared maps and graphs with her usual elaborateness. Jürgen Böhner (Hamburg) kindly provided data of Transeau ratios. Two unknown reviewers helped us improving the article considerably.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georg Miehe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sabine Miehe
    • 1
  • Martin Will
    • 1
  • Lars Opgenoorth
    • 1
  • La Duo
    • 2
  • Tsering Dorgeh
    • 2
  • Jianquan Liu
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of GeographyUniversity of MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of BiologyTibet University LhasaLhasa, A.R. XizangChina
  3. 3.Northwest Institute of Plateau BiologyChinese Academy of SciencesXining, QinghaiChina

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