Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Effects of altitude on plant-species diversity and productivity in an alpine meadow, Qinghai–Tibetan plateau

Chang Ting Wang A B , Rui Jun Long A C E , Qi Ji Wang A , Lu Ming Ding A and Mei Ping Wang D
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Northwest Plateau Institute of Biology, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, PR China.

B Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100039, PR China.

C Center for Tibetan Grassland and Yak Studies, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730020, PR China.

D Grassland Science College of Gansu Agriculture University, Lanzhou 730070, PR China.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 55(2) 110-117
Submitted: 5 August 2004  Accepted: 26 October 2006   Published: 16 March 2007


During the growing seasons of 2002 and 2003, biomass productivity and diversity were examined along an altitudinal transect on the south-western slope of Beishan Mountain, Maqin County (33°43′–35°16′N, 98°48′–100°55′E), Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Six altitudes were selected, between 3840 and 4435 m. Soil organic matter, soil available N and P and environmental factors significantly affected plant-species diversity and productivity of the alpine meadows. Aboveground biomass declined significantly with increasing altitude (P < 0.05) and it was positively and linearly related to late summer soil-surface temperature. Belowground biomass (0–10-cm depth) was significantly greater at the lowest and highest altitudes than at intermediate locations, associated with water and nutrient availabilities. At each site, the maximum belowground biomass values occurred at the beginning and the end of the growing seasons (P < 0.05). Soil organic matter content, and available N and P were negatively and closely related to plant diversity (species richness, Shannon–Wiener diversity index, and Pielou evenness index).


The authors thank Q. M. Dong, J. J. Shi and H. L. Shi for their kind help with sample collections. We also gratefully thank referees who provided helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This research is sponsored by the Hundred Talents Programs of Chinese Academy of Sciences, as Project 30371021 of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and National Science Surmount Project of China (2001BA606A-02-03).


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