1. bookVolume 15 (2016): Issue 2 (December 2016)
Journal Details
First Published
10 Jul 2007
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
access type Open Access

Mountain pastures of Qilian Shan: plant communities, grazing impact and degradation status (Gansu province, NW China)

Published Online: 12 Aug 2016
Volume & Issue: Volume 15 (2016) - Issue 2 (December 2016)
Page range: 21 - 35
Received: 28 Nov 2015
Accepted: 21 Apr 2016
Journal Details
First Published
10 Jul 2007
Publication timeframe
2 times per year

Environmental degradation of pasture areas in the Qilian Mountains (Gansu province, NW China) has increased in recent years. Soil erosion and loss of biodiversity caused by overgrazing is widespread. Changes in plant cover, however, have not been analysed so far. The aim of this paper is to identify plant communities and to detect grazing-induced changes in vegetation patterns. Quantitative and qualitative relevé data were collected for community classification and to analyse gradual changes in vegetation patterns along altitudinal and grazing gradients. Detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) was used to analyse variation in relationships between vegetation, environmental factors and differential grazing pressure. The results of the DCA showed apparent variation in plant communities along the grazing gradient. Two factors - altitude and exposure - had the strongest impact on plant community distribution. Comparing monitoring data for the most recent nine years, a trend of pasture deterioration, plant community successions and shift in dominant species becomes obvious. In order to increase grassland quality, sustainable pasture management strategies should be implemented.


Anlin, G. & Zongli, W. 2009: Atlas of Rangeland Plants in Northern China. Agricultural Science and Technology Press, Beijing, 363 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Bisigato, A. J., Laphitz, R. M. L. & Carrera, A. L. 2008: Nonlinear relationships between grazing pressure and conservation of soil resources in Patagonian Monte shrublands. Journal of Arid Environments 72: 1464-1475.10.1016/j.jaridenv.2008.02.016Search in Google Scholar

Blackburn, W. H. 1984: Impacts of Grazing Intensity and Specialized Grazing Systems on Watershed Characteristics and Responses Developing strategies for rangeland management. A report prepared by Committee on Developing Strategies for Rangeland Management National Research Council / National Academy of Science 927-983. Westview Press: Boulder, USA.Search in Google Scholar

Borchardt, P., Schickhoff, U., Scheitweiler, S. & Kulikov, M. 2011: Mountain pastures and grasslands in the SW Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan: floristic patterns, environmental gradients, phytogeography, and grazing impact. Journal of Mountain Science 8: 363-373.10.1007/s11629-011-2121-8Search in Google Scholar

Braun-Blanquet, J. 1964: Pflanzensoziologie 3rd ed. Wien, 819 pp. [in German].10.1007/978-3-7091-8110-2Search in Google Scholar

Brinkmann, K., Patzelt, A., Dickhoefer, U., Schlecht, E. & Buerkert, A. 2009: Vegetation patterns and diversity along an altitudinal and a grazing gradient in the Jabal al Akhdar mountain range of northern Oman. Journal of Arid Environments 73: 1035-1045.10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.05.002Search in Google Scholar

Cesa, A. & Paruelo, J. M. 2011: Changes in vegetation structure induced by domestic grazing in Patagonia (Southern Argentina). Journal of Arid Environments 75: 1129-1135.10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.04.003Search in Google Scholar

Chang, X., Zhao, W. & Zhao, A. 2004: Species diversity of pasture community at different altitude levels in Qilian Mountains. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology 15(9): 1599-1603 [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Connell, J. H. 1978: Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199(4335): 1302-1310.10.1126/science.199.4335.1302Search in Google Scholar

Damiran, D. 2005: Palatability of Mongolian Rangeland Plants. Circular of Information No 3 Union, OR, USA: Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, Oregon State University, Oregon, 95 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Díaz, S., Lavorel, S., McIntyre, S., Falczuk, V., Casanoves, F., Milchunas, D. G., Skarpe, C., Rusch, G., Sternberg, M., Noy-Meir, I., Landsberg, J., Zhang, W., Clark, H. & Campbell, B. D. 2006: Plant trait responses to grazing - a global synthesis. Global Change Biology 12: 1-29.Search in Google Scholar

Dingguo, Y. 1992: Degradation and protection of grassland on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Erosion, Debris Flows and Environment in Mountain Regions In: Proceedings of the Chengdu Symposium IAHS 209: 471-476.Search in Google Scholar

Dorji, T., Mo, S. R., Klien, J. A. & Totland, O. 2014: Plant Species Richness, Evenness, and Composition along Environmental Gradients in an Alpine Meadow Grazing Ecosystem in Central Tibet, China. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 46: 308-326.Search in Google Scholar

Du Toit, P. C. V. 2000: Estimating grazing index values for plants from arid regions. Journal of Range Management 53: 529-536.10.2307/4003654Search in Google Scholar

Dufrêne, M. & Legendre, P. 1997: Species assemblages and indicator species: The need for a flexible asymmetrical approach. Ecological Monographs 67: 345-366. 10.1890/0012-9615(1997)067[0345:SAAIST]2.0.CO;2Search in Google Scholar

eFloras. 2008: Published on the Internet http://www.efloras.org Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA [last accessed on April 20, 2014].Search in Google Scholar

Gang, C. W., Wang, H. S., Li, N., Zeng, G. H. & Zhou, Q. P. 2008: Effect of herbicide “Langdujing” on Stellera chamaejasme control and impact on forage grass yield of alpine meadow. Pratacultural Science 25: 95-97 [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Guojing, Y., Duning, X., Lihua, Z. & Cuiwen, T. 2005: Hydrological Effects of Forest Landscape Patterns in the Qilian Mountains. Mountain Research and Development 25: 262-268.10.1659/0276-4741(2005)025[0262:HEOFLP]2.0.CO;2Search in Google Scholar

HFA - Handbuch Forstliche Analytik. 2009: Gottingen [in German].Search in Google Scholar

Holtmeier, F.K. 2009: Mountain Timberlines: Ecology, Patchiness, and Dynamics (Advances in Global Change Research, 36). Springer Science + Business Media BV, 445 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Huang, D., Yu, L., Zhang, Y. & Zhao, X. 2011: Aboveground Numerical Characteristics of Five Natural Grassland and Their Relationships to Environmental Factors in the Northern Slopes of the Mountains Qilian. Northern Journal of Agricultural Sciences 20: 174-180 [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

ISO - International Classification for Standards. 2010: Published in the Internet http://www.iso.org Guidelines for bibliographic references and citations to information resources (ISO 690:2010). Standard International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Geneva, Switzerland [last accessed on May 13, 2015].Search in Google Scholar

Jambal, S., Urianhai, N. G., Otoda, T., Yamada, Y., Jamsran, U., Sakamoto, K. & Yoshikawa, K. 2012: Effect of Grazing Pressure on the Structure of Rangeland Plant Community in Mongolia. Journal of Arid Land Studies (Proceedings of ICAL1 / DT X) 21: 235-238.Search in Google Scholar

Jerrentrup, J. S., Seither, M., Petersen, U. & Isselstein, J. 2015: Little grazer species effect on the vegetation in a rotational grazing system. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 202: 243-250.Search in Google Scholar

Jones, R., Kemp, D. & Takahashi, T. 2011: Dynamic modelling of sustainable livestock production systems In: ACIAR, Kemp, D. & Michalk, D. (eds.): Development of sustainable livestock systems on grasslands in north-west China. ACIAR Proceedings 134: 36-44.Search in Google Scholar

Kent, M. 2012: Vegetation Description and Data Analysis: A Practical Approach. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 428 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Kershaw, H. M. & Mallik, A. U. 2013: Predicting plant diversity response to disturbance: applicability of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis and mass ratio hypothesis. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 32(6): 383-395.10.1080/07352689.2013.791501Search in Google Scholar

Kürschner, H., Herzschuh, U. & Wagner, D. 2005: Phytosociological studies in the north-eastern Tibetan Plateau (NW China) A first contribution to the subalpine scrub and alpine meadow vegetation, Botanische Jahrbucher der Systematik 126 (3): 273-315. doi: 10.1127/0006-8152/2005/0126-027310.1127/0006-8152/2005/0126-0273Search in Google Scholar

Li, J., Zheng, X., Chi, J., Wang, J., Wang, S. & Chang, Z. 2004: Analysis of current management condition and restoration of water resources conservation forest in Qilian Mountains. Journal of Beijing Forestry University 26: 89-92.Search in Google Scholar

Li, X. Y., Wang, X. Q. & Gao, Q. Z. 2003: Precipitation fluctuations in the transitional zone between arid and semiarid regions of northwest China from the 1950s to the 1990s. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment 1: 229-238.Search in Google Scholar

Lider, E. 2013: Direction dependence of soil-water conductivity in high-altitude mountains environment in NW China. Master Thesis, Albert-Ludwigs-University, Freiburg, Germany.Search in Google Scholar

Lomolino, M. V. 2001: Elevation gradients of species-density: historical and prospective views. Global Ecology and Biogeography 10: 3-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1466-822x.2001.00229.x Lu, H., Wang, S. S., Zhou, Q, W., Zhao, Y. N. & Zhao, B. Y. (2012): Damage and control of major poisonous plants in the western grasslands of China - a review. The Rangeland Journal (34): 329-339.Search in Google Scholar

McCune, B. & Mefford, M. J. 2011: PC-ORD Multivariate Analysis of Ecological Data, Version 6 - MjM Software Design. Gleneden Beach, Oregon, 28 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Metera, E., Sakowski, T., Słoniewski, K. & Romanowicz, B. 2010: Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland - a review. Animal Science Papers and Reports 28: 315-334.Search in Google Scholar

Miehe, G., Bach, K., Miehe, S., Kluge, J., Yang, Y., Duo, L., Co, S. & Wesche, K. (2011): Alpine Steppe Plant Communities of the Tibetan highlands. Applied Vegetation Science 14 (4): 547-560. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-109X.2011.01147.x 10.1111/j.1654-109X.2011.01147.xSearch in Google Scholar

Mueller-Dombois, D. & Ellenberg, H. 1974: Aims and methods of vegetation ecology. NY: Wiley & Sons, 547 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Nagy, L. & Grabherr, G. 2009: The Biology of Alpine Habitats. Oxford University Press, 376 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Plantarium - illustrated online atlas of plants species of former USSR Republics and adjusted territories Manual of plants. Published on the Internet www.plantarium.ru. Free assessable uncommercial public Project [last accessed December 22, 2014] [in Russian].Search in Google Scholar

Quattrocchi, U. 2012: CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. 5 Volumes. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 851 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Rana, M. S., Samant, S. S. & Rawat, Y. S. 2011: Plant communities and factors responsible for vegetation pattern in an alpine area of the northwestern Himalaya. Journal of Mountain Science 8(6): 817-826.10.1007/s11629-011-2078-7Search in Google Scholar

Sheng, H., Cao, G., Li, G., Zhou, J., Jiao, W., Li, J. & Zhan, P. 2009: Effect of grazing disturbance on plant community of alpine meadow dominated by Potentilla fruticosa shrub on Qilian Mountain. China Ecology and Environmental Science 18: 1088-1093 [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Subject Database of China Plant (Record number: ICP 09112257). Published on the Internet http://www.plant.csdb.cn/ Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences Beijing [last accessed April 15, 2014] [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Suttie, J. M., Reynolds, S. G. & Batello, C. 2005: Grasslands of the World. Plant Production and Protection Series. FAO Rome 34: 305-342.Search in Google Scholar

The Plant List. Version 10. Published on the Internet http://www.theplantlist.org/ [last accessed April 20, 2014].Search in Google Scholar

Török, P., Valkó, O., Deák, B., Kelemen, A., Tóth, E. & Tóthmérész, B. 2016: Managing for composition or species diversity? - Pastoral and year-round grazing systems in alkali grasslands. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2016.01.01010.1016/j.agee.2016.01.010Search in Google Scholar

Török, P., Valkó, O., Deák, B., Kelemen, A. & Tóthmérész, B. 2014: Traditional cattle grazing in a mosaic alkali landscape: Effects on grassland biodiversity along a moisture gradient. PLoS ONE 9 (5): e97095.10.1371/journal.pone.0097095401458224809348Search in Google Scholar

Vetter, S. 2005: Rangelands at equilibrium and non-equilibrium: recent developments in the debate. Journal of Arid Environments 62 (2): 321-341.10.1016/j.jaridenv.2004.11.015Search in Google Scholar

Wang, G., Zhou, G., Yang, L. & Li, Z. 2002: Distribution, species diversity and life-form spectra of plant communities along an altitudinal gradient in the northern slopes of Qilianshan Mountains, Gansu, China. Plant Ecology 165: 169-181.Search in Google Scholar

Wang, G. H. 2002: Species diversity of plant communities along an altitudinal gradient in the middle section of northern slopes of Qilian Mountains, Zhangye, Gansu, China. Biodiversity Science 10: 7-14 [in Chinese].10.17520/biods.2002002Search in Google Scholar

Wang, L., Gao, S., Zhou, S., Tang, C. J. & Hou, T. P. 2006: Investigation of poisonous plants in natural grassland of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Acta Botanica Boreali-Occidentalia Sinica 7: 1428-1435.Search in Google Scholar

Wildi, O. 2010: Data Analysis in Vegetation Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 211 pp.10.1002/9780470664971Search in Google Scholar

Wrage, N., Strodthoff, J., Cuchillo, H. M., Isselstein, J. & Kayser, M. 2011: Phytodiversity of temperate permanent grasslands: ecosystem services for griculture and livestock management for diversity conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 20: 3317-3339.10.1007/s10531-011-0145-6Search in Google Scholar

Wu, G. L., Du, G. Z., Liu, Z. H. & Thirgood, S. 2009: Effect of fencing and grazing on a Kobresia-dominated meadow in the Qinghai- Tibetan Plateau. Plant and Soil 319: 115-126. doi: 10.1007/s11104-008-9854-310.1007/s11104-008-9854-3Search in Google Scholar

Wu, Z. Y. 1980: Vegetation of China. Science Press, Beijing, 825 pp. [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Xiande, L., Chunyun, Z., Duolong, D. & Xiaochun, M. 2001: Catalogue of Medicine Plants of Qilian Mountains. Lanzhou Agricultural University Press, Lanzhou, 327 pp. [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Yu, P., Wang, Y., Wu, X., Dong, X., Xiong, W., Bu, G., Wang, S., Wang, J., Liu X. & Xu, L. 2010: Water yield reduction due to forestation in arid mountainous regions, northwest China. International Journal of Sediment Research 25: 423-430.Search in Google Scholar

Yuan, H. & Hou, F. 2015: Grazing intensity and soil depth effects on soil properties in alpine meadow pastures of Qilian Mountain in northwest China. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Soil & Plant Science 65: 222-232.Search in Google Scholar

Zar, J. H. 1999: Biostatistical Analysis. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 663 pp.Search in Google Scholar

Zhao, C. Y., Nan, Z., Cheng, G., Zhan, J. & Feng, Z. D. 2006: GISassisted modelling of the spatial distribution of Qinghai spruce (Picea crassifolia) in the Qilian Mountains, northwestern China based on biophysical parameters. Ecological Modelling 191: 487-500.Search in Google Scholar

Zhao, C. Y., Peng, S. Z. & Feng, Z. D. 2009: Spatial modelling of the variability of the soil moisture regime at the landscape scale in the southern Qilian Mountains, China. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions 6: 6335-6358.10.5194/hessd-6-6335-2009Search in Google Scholar

Zhao, C. Z., Fan S., Yin, C. & He, G. 2004: Study on Vegetation community structure of degraded grassland in Qilian Mountains. Grassland of China 26: 26-35 [in Chinese].Search in Google Scholar

Zhou H., Tang Y., Zhao X. & Zhou L. 2006: Long-term grazing alters species composition and biomass of a shrub meadow on the Qinghai- Tibet Plateau. Pakistan Journal of Botany 38(4): 1055-1069.Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo