Plant Ecology

, 201:383 | Cite as

Temporal changes in species diversity and composition in abandoned fields in a trans-Himalayan landscape, Nepal

  • Chitra Bahadur Baniya
  • Torstein Solhøy
  • Ole R. VetaasEmail author


Secondary succession is an increasing phenomenon due to global changes in agriculture policies and practices. The empirical findings are biased towards the temperate zone. Abandonment of agriculture fields is less frequent in the subtropical and tropical zones where agriculture areas are, in general, expanding. But there are exceptions; a rapid rate of abandonment of agricultural fields have taken place in the arid trans-Himalayan region, due to today’s globalization of economy. We analysed agriculture fields that were abandoned between 1950 and 2003 in a large u-valley in central Nepal (3400 m a.s.l.). The potential forest vegetation is dominated by Pinus wallichina and shrubs of junipers and cotoneaster species. We tested the intermediate richness hypothesis in relation to vegetation cover, soil development and whether old-field succession is convergent or divergent with species data from 242 1 m2 plots in 5 age-classes. The main species compositional turnover expressed by Detrended Correspondence Analyses (DCA) correlated, as expected, with time after abandonment. Fields that were abandoned a long time ago are closer to forest at the periphery of the agricultural landscape. Moisture of the soil significantly increased with age of abandonment, but total vegetation cover and pH were negatively related to age. Beta diversity expressed in DCA SD-units showed an increasing trend with age of abandonment, supporting the divergence pattern in old-field succession. The reason why the succession is not converging may be due to browsing by domestic animals that prevent a closed canopy of pines and juniper to develop. There was a significant hump-shaped pattern in species richness along the temporal gradient, which agrees with the intermediate species-richness hypothesis. There was a rapid increase in species richness in plots close to the villages that were used for haymaking which increased the seed input significantly.


GLM Himalaya Manang Multivariate analyses Old-field succession Secondary succession Species richness 



We would like to thank to John Arvid Grytnes, Einar Heegard, Richard Telford, Department of Biology, University of Bergen for their valuable and inspiring suggestion related to statistical analyses and the Norwegian State Education Loan Fund (Lånekassen) for providing funding. Professor Pramod Kumar Jha, Head, Central Department of Botany, Professor Ram Prasad Chaudhary, Central Department of Botany and Govind Prasad Sharma Ghimire, Professor, Central Department of Botany and former Dean, Institute of Science and Technology, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal are highly acknowledged due to their timely and valuable guidance. Thanks to Cathy Jenks for English correction. This study was part of a project led by O. R. Vetaas which was funded by Norwegian Research Council (project no. 148910/730).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chitra Bahadur Baniya
    • 1
    • 2
  • Torstein Solhøy
    • 1
  • Ole R. Vetaas
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  2. 2.Central Department of BotanyTribhuvan University KirtipurKathmanduNepal
  3. 3.UNIFOB-GlobalUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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