Species richness and diversity along the altitudinal gradient in Tungnath, the Himalayan benchmark site of HIMADRI
Zubair A. Malik* and Mohan C. Nautiyal
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Abstract: Alpine ecosystems are likely to show the effects of climate change earlier and more clearly than other ecosystems. The main purpose of the recently launched research initiative, HIMADRI (Himalayan Alpine Dynamics Research Initiative) is the long term monitoring of the ecologically sensitive parameters at benchmark sites selected in various regions of Indian Himalayan Region. The aim of the present study was characterization of one of the HIMADRI benchmark sites (Tungnath, Western Himalaya) and to provide a baseline data about the species richness and diversity along the altitudinal gradient for long monitoring. Four sites were selected along an altitudinal gradient (3200–3600 m asl). A total of 52 plant species belonging to 40 genera and 21 families were reported from the study area during the different seasons of year. Species richness showed a non-significant positive correlation (r=0.53) with altitude but diversity showed a slightly negative correlation (r=-0.05) with it. The reinvestigation of these sites in future (e.g. after a decade or more) will help in understanding the effect of climate change in IHR in terms of changes in species composition and diversity or in terms of species shifts from one vegetation zone or/and ecotone to another.
Fig.: Number of species in different plant families of the study area.