Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 229–255 | Cite as

Vegetation Patterns of the Irano-Turanian Steppe along a 3,000 m Altitudinal Gradient in the Alborz Mountains of Northern Iran

  • Hossein AkhaniEmail author
  • Parastoo Mahdavi
  • Jalil Noroozi
  • Vajiheh Zarrinpour


The Irano-Turanian floristic region is a major center of endemism in the Holarctic of Eurasia. The Alborz Mountains of northern Iran are a complex and heterogeneous environmental system with rich water resources and great habitat diversity. We have investigated steppe plant communities along an altitudinal gradient ranging from approximately 1,000 m a.s.l. in the semi-desert steppes near Tehran to a height of 3,966 m a.s.l. at the summit of Mount Tochal. Our two-way indicator species analysis of 1,069 vegetation samples resulted in classification of five major vegetation zones: (1) a semi-desert Artemisia steppe near Tehran, (2) a Stipa grassland in the alluvial undulating hills north and west of Tehran, (3) a submontane and steppe zone, (4) a subalpine cushion formation zone and (5) an alpine meadow and subnival zone of Mount Tochal. Annuals and ephemerals in the semi-desert vegetation decline as altitude increases and almost disappear in the alpine zone. Past human impacts of ancient Persian civilization and a traditional pastoral economy have affected the physiognomy of plant communities; thorny dwarf shrubs now dominate the treeless vegetation of the region. Lower competition for space, different phenology and the presence of edaphic and hydrological layers associated with anthropogenic impacts are major reasons for entanglement of different plant communities in the arid- and semi-arid steppe. The phytogeography of the region changes from omni-Irano-Turanian and Saharo-Sindian transgressive species at lower altitudes to a more limited range of western Irano-Turanian species and local endemics at higher altitudes.


Alborz Mountains Alpine meadow Altitudinal gradient Biodiversity Cushion-Form vegetation Grazing Semi-desert steppe TWINSPAN 



Financial support for this research was provided by the Research Council of University of Tehran under grant No. 6104037/1/02 and two studentship grants for Parastoo Mahdavi and Jalil Noroozi. We would like to thank Dr. M. Djamali (Marseille) for his critical reading and improvements of the geological and climatological aspects of this paper, and Prof. G. Prance (Lyme Regis) and Dr. Michael Gregg (McMaster University) for suggestions on English style. The original version of this paper has been extensively revised based on comments of three anonymous reviewers and the associate editor while the first author was on sabbatical leave at the Botanical Garden and Museum in Berlin supported by a grant from Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hossein Akhani
    • 1
    Email author
  • Parastoo Mahdavi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jalil Noroozi
    • 1
  • Vajiheh Zarrinpour
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant Sciences, School of BiologyUniversity of TehranTehranIran
  2. 2.Abteilung Vegetationsanalyse und Phytodiversität, Albrecht von Haller Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften, Universität GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.Islamic Azad UniversityDamghanIran

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