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Variations in Species Composition of Moorland Plant Communities Along Environmental Gradients Within a Subalpine Zone in Northern Japan


Despite the ecological, conservation, and cultural significance of Japan’s alpine and subalpine moorland ecosystems, the patterns of species composition in plant communities in these ecosystems have not been fully described. The objectives of this study were to classify and describe the species composition of moorland plant communities and to examine the relationships between the classified community types and measured environmental variables within the subalpine zone of northern Japan. Plant communities were sorted into six types, whose strongest indicator species were Sieversia pentapetala, Schizocodon soldanelloides, Moliniopsis japonica, Vaccinium oxycoccos, Carex thunbergii, and Hosta sieboldii, respectively. The differences in species composition among these types were mainly related to the variations in soil solution pH and electric conductivity and in elevation and temperature. Each community type represented a unique combination of plant species, with some rare and endangered species. Describing and classifying the vegetation by providing indicators for a representative range of moorland community types should facilitate the identification and conservation of these valuable communities.

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We thank the members of our lab for their kindness in helping with the field work, especially Yukari Abe, Sawako Imahiro, Akira Inoue, and Yuta Nihonmatsu. We also thank Koji Yonekura for advice about species identification and Hiroko Kurokawa for helpful comments and discussions on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This work was supported by the Global Environmental Research Fund of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (no. D-0904), with additional support from Tohoku University’s Global COE program “Ecosystem Adaptability Science for the Future” (no. J03) and a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists B (no. 23710278) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.

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Correspondence to Takehiro Sasaki.

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Sasaki, T., Katabuchi, M., Kamiyama, C. et al. Variations in Species Composition of Moorland Plant Communities Along Environmental Gradients Within a Subalpine Zone in Northern Japan. Wetlands 33, 269–277 (2013).

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  • Alpine plants
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Classification
  • Indicator species