Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 123, Issue 6, pp 741–749 | Cite as

Effects of roads on alpine and subalpine plant species distribution along an altitudinal gradient on Mount Norikura, central Japan

  • Koichi TakahashiEmail author
  • Yutaka Miyajima
Regular Paper


We investigated the effects of roads on alpine and subalpine plant species distribution along an altitudinal gradient on Mount Norikura (3026 m a.s.l.), Japan. We examined the vegetation of herb and tree species shorter than 1.3 m along roadsides and adjacent natural vegetation at 200 m intervals between 1600 and 3000 m a.s.l. The timberline was at 2500 m a.s.l. Although the canopy opening was greater at the roadsides than in the natural vegetation, it was similar above the timberline. Soil cover and litter depth of the soil surface were less at roadsides than the natural vegetation, and gravel and rock cover were greater at roadsides. Species composition changed in similar directions from natural vegetation to roadsides along the altitudinal gradient. This direction was related to canopy opening and litter depth. Liliaceae, Ericaceae and Pinaceae were dominant families in the natural vegetation, and Asteraceae and Poaceae were greatest at the roadsides. Roadside plants were mostly herb species, while tree species increased in natural vegetation. Five exotic species were also observed at the roadsides. Sunny plant species gradually increased with altitude in the natural vegetation, indicated by the increase in canopy opening. By contrast, roadside plants were mostly sunny plant species irrespective of altitude. The number of lowland and montane species increased at the roadsides in the subalpine zone. Thus, roads strongly altered species composition of the natural vegetation along the altitudinal gradient probably because of changes in light and soil-surface conditions for growth and seedling establishment.


Alpine plant Altitudinal distribution Exotic species Non-native species Road Shade tolerance Subalpine plant 



This study was partially supported by grants from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture of Japan (Nos. 13780418 and 15710007). We thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments.

Supplementary material

10265_2010_318_MOESM1_ESM.xls (67 kb)
Table S1. Relative cover (%) of each species in natural vegetation (N) and at roadside (R) at each altitude between 1600 m and 3000 m a.s.l. on Mount Norikura, central Japan. Each site is indicated by the combination of (N or R) plus altitude (ex. N 16 means natural vegetaion at 1600 m a.s.l.). The number in parenthees indicates the total cover (%) at each altitude. Data of natural vegetation was cited from Miyajima et al. (2007). (XLS 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  2. 2.Institute of Mountain ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Science and TechnologyShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan

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