Vascular plant diversity along an elevational gradient in the Central Himalayas, western Nepal

Abstract

Elevational gradients are linked with different abiotic and biotic factors, which in turn influence the distribution of plant diversity. In the present study we explored the relative importance of different environmental factors in shaping species diversity and composition of vascular plant species along an elevational gradient in the Chamelia Valley, Api-Nampa Conservation Area in western Nepal. Data were collected from 2,000 to 3,800 m above sea level and analysed using a generalized linear mixed model (GLM) and non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS). We recorded 231 vascular plant species consisting of 158 herb species belonging to 55 families, 37 shrub species belonging to 22 families and 36 tree species belonging to 23 families. Species richness and species abundance significantly decreased with increasing elevation. However, species richness increased with the intensity of vegetation cutting. Species richness and abundance also increased with increased annual precipitation and mean annual temperature whereas species abundance decreased with grazing, soil phosphorus and nitrogen. NMDS ordination revealed that mean annual temperature and annual precipitation affect the composition of vascular plant species in opposite ways to elevation. Among the many anthropogenic disturbances, only grazing affected species composition. In conclusion, more than one environmental factor contribute to the shaping of patterns of vascular plant species distribution in western Nepal. Knowledge on species diversity, distribution and underlying factors needs to be taken into consideration when formulating and implementing conservation strategies.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) a collaborative programme between the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Government of Nepal, Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST), Tribhuvan University and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). We are grateful to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife conservation (DNPWC), Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal and Api-Nampa Conservation Area for giving us permission to carry out research. MBR and ZM was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (project 17-10280S) and partly by institutional support RVO 67985939. BT is supported by the National Sustainability Program I (NPU I) (grant number LO1415) of MSMT. We are thankful to Kamal Mohan Ghimire, Santosh Thapa, Khadak Rokaya and local people in Darchula for their help during data collection and Sunil Thapa for preparing the map. Views and interpretations in this publication are those of the authors and are not attributable to funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Chandra K. Subedi.

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Appendices

Appendix

Appendix Fig. 1.
figure6

Sampling design for the vegetation survey in the Chamelia Valley, western Nepal.

Appendix

Appendix Table 1 List of plant species recorded in the sampling plots.

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Subedi, C.K., Rokaya, M.B., Münzbergová, Z. et al. Vascular plant diversity along an elevational gradient in the Central Himalayas, western Nepal. Folia Geobot (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12224-020-09370-8

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Keywords

  • disturbance
  • soil nutrients
  • species abundance
  • species composition
  • species richness