Unpalatable weed Stellera chamaejasme L. provides biotic refuge for neighboring species and conserves plant diversity in overgrazing alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau in China
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Steller chamaejasme L. (S. chamaejasme for short) is one of the most noxious unpalatable weeds in China, which has been frequently reported its negative interaction (i.e. competition and allelopathy) with other herbaceous species in grasslands. This study compared species diversity, biomass and sexual reproduction of herbaceous plants in meadows with S. chamaejasme and in open meadows without S. chamaejasme in overgrazing meadows on the Tibetan Plateau in China to determine whether positive facilitation exist between S. chamaejasme and other herbaceous species under livestock’s overgrazing. The results showed that there are more herbaceous species in meadows with S. chamaejasme than those in open meadows (35s and 30s, respectively). Diversity index and above-ground biomass were also significantly higher in meadows with S. chamaejasme. There were 39% (11/28) of all species with sexual reproduction found in meadows with S. chamaejasme, which was 7 times more than those in open meadows. Our study showed that S. chamaejasme could provide biotic refuge for neighboring plants and preserve plant diversity from livestock’s overgrazing in alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau. It also suggested that inter-specific facilitation between S. chamaejasme and other herbaceous species may play a key role in overgrazing alpine meadows.
KeywordsStellera chamaejasme L. Facilitation Unpalatable weed Alpine meadow Tibetan Plateau
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