Plant Ecology

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 63–78 | Cite as

Zonal transition of evergreen, deciduous, and coniferous forests along the altitudinal gradient on a humid subtropical mountain, Mt. Emei, Sichuan, China

  • Cindy Q. Tang
  • Masahiko Ohsawa


Altitudinal zonation of evergreen, deciduous and coniferous forests on Mt. Emei (3099 m asl, 29°34.5' N, 103°21.5' E), Sichuan, China was studied to understand the transition of vegetation zonation from tropical to temperate mountains in humid Asia. On the basis of quantitative data on floristic composition and community structure sampled at ten plots selected in different altitudes on the eastern slope of the mountain, forest zonation and the inter-relationships among different life-forms of trees in each zonal forest community were studied quantitatively. Three forest zones were identified physiognomically along the altitudinal gradient, viz. (i) the evergreen broad-leaved forest zone (660–1500 m asl), (ii) the mixed forest zone (1500–2500 m asl), and (iii) the coniferous forest zone (2500–3099 m asl). Great compositional changes were observed along elevation, and the zonal forest communities were characterized by their dominants and floristic composition. Maximum tree height decreased from 33 m at lower middle altitude (965 m asl) to 13 m near the summit (2945 m asl). There was no apparent deciduous forest zone along the altitudinal gradient, but true mixed forests of three life-forms (evergreen, deciduous, and coniferous) were formed around 2000–2500 m asl. Patches of deciduous forest were found in a lower part of the mixed forest zone, particularly on scree slopes, between 1450 m and 1900 m asl. These patches were dominated by the Tertiary relic deciduous trees, such as Davidia involucrata, Tetracentron sinense, and Cercidiphyllum japonicum var. sinense. High species diversity in the mixed forest zone resulted from the overlapping of different life-forms at middle altitudes, which is partly due to wider variety of temperature-altitude correlations. A comparison of the altitudinal zonation with the other east Asian mountain vegetation clarified that Mt. Emei is located exactly at the ecotone between tropical and temperate zonation types in eastern Asia.

Altitudinal gradient Community structure Diversity Dominance Floristic composition Physiognomy Topographic factor 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cindy Q. Tang
    • 1
  • Masahiko Ohsawa
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of EcologyChiba UniversityChibaJapan

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