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Subtropical montane evergreen broad-leaved forests of Yunnan, China: diversity, succession dynamics, human influence

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Abstract

This paper integrates studies on the natural subtropical montane evergreen broad-leaved forests (EBLFs) and secondary succession of the forests and plantations in Yunnan, to provide a basis for evaluating the sustainability of the forests in the mountain ecosystems of Yunnan, China. The EBLFs include mid-montane moist, monsoon, and semi-humid categories. The monsoon EBLF yielded the highest indices of the Shannon-Wiener H, Equitability J, Simpson D and Fisher’s alpha, followed by the mid-montane moist EBLF, then by the semi-humid forest. Since human uses have varied widely, the plant communities ranged from pioneer deciduous broad-leaved and/or pioneer coniferous stands to late-successional evergreen broad-leaved stands. The secondary succession pathways were from pioneer deciduous stands of Alnus accompanied by stands of pioneer coniferous Pinus and Keteleeria, through broad-leaved and coniferous mixed stands, to late-successional evergreen broad-leaved forests of Cyclobalanopsis and Castanopsis. In Yunnan, the EBLF is commonly replaced by plantations of exotic fast-growing Eucalyptus to produce industrial wood, oil, pulp and fuel. The result has been reduced plant diversity, and great loss of soil nutrients by erosion and runoff, as compared to the EBLF. Seventy-six plant species in the area have been ranked as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. Their condition is seen as largely attributable to habitat loss or degradation. A clear understanding of ecological features and succession pathways of the EBLF can lead to more effective conservation and management of these fragile forests and the mountain ecosystems.

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Correspondence to Cindy Q. Tang.

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Tang, C.Q. Subtropical montane evergreen broad-leaved forests of Yunnan, China: diversity, succession dynamics, human influence. Front. Earth Sci. China 4, 22–32 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11707-009-0057-x

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