Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 265–275 | Cite as

Species-area relationship within and across functional groups at alpine grasslands on the northern Tibetan Plateau, China

  • Nan Zhou
  • Jian-shuang WuEmail author
  • Zhen-xi Shen
  • Xian-zhou Zhang
  • Peng-wan Yang


The species-area relationship (SAR) is one of the most fundamental concepts in community ecology and is helpful for biodiversity conservation. However, few studies have systematically addressed this topic for different alpine grassland types on the Tibetan Plateau, China. We explored whether the plant composition of different functional groups affects the manner in which species richness increases with increasing area at scales ≤ 1.0 m2. We also compared species richness (S) within and across forbs, legumes, sedges and grasses, with sampling subplot area (A) increasing from 0.0625 m2 to 1.0 m2 between alpine meadow and steppe communities. We applied a logarithmic function (S = b 0 + b 1 ln A) to determine the slope and intercept of SAR curves within and across functional groups. The results showed that the logarithmic relationship holds true between species richness and sampling area at these small scales. Both the intercept and slope of the logarithmic forbs-area curves are significantly higher than those for the three other functional groups (P < 0.05). Forb accounts for about 91.9 % of the variation in the intercept and 75.0% of the variation in the slope of the SAR curve when all functional groups’ data were pooled together. Our results indicated that the different SAR patterns should be linked with species dispersal capabilities, environmental filtering, and life form composition within alpine grassland communities. Further studies on the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem functions should specify the differential responses of different functional groups to variations in climate and anthropogenic disturbances.


Changtang Nature Reserve Complementary response Plant functional groups Plant life forms Species coexistence 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nan Zhou
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jian-shuang Wu
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Zhen-xi Shen
    • 1
  • Xian-zhou Zhang
    • 1
  • Peng-wan Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Lhasa National Ecological Research Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of sciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Functional Biodiversity, Dahlem Centre of Plant SciencesFree University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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