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Influence of altitude on the distribution pattern of flora in a protected area of Western Himalaya

Bhat, Jahangeer A., Kumar, Munesh, Pala, Nazir A., Shah, Shipra, Dayal, Suchindra, Gunathilake, Champathi, Negi, Ajeet K.
Acta ecologica Sinica 2020 v.40 no.1 pp. 30-43
Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, Ranunculaceae, Rosaceae, altitude, biogeography, cluster analysis, conservation areas, fauna, flora, herbs, shrubs, species richness, trees, vegetation, Himalayan region, India
Distribution pattern and diversity of flora was compared along an altitudinal gradient using the stratified random sampling design for identifying major plant communities of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary of Garhwal Himalaya, India. The reconnaissance of flora is presented, along with the analysis of the distribution of species, genera, and families within five (5) altitudinal zones. Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary which is situated in the Indian Himalayas harbours a rich variety of flora and fauna. The Himalayas are recognized for diverse vegetation distributed over a wide range of topographical conditions.The analysis of diversity within five (5) altitudinal zones was carried out and a total of 324 plant species, representing 219 genera belonging to 92 families, were found. The dominant family was Asteraceae; the co-dominant family was Rosaceae, followed by Lamiaceae and Ranunculaceae. Eight (8) families were observed in all the altitudinal zones, while forty (40) families were observed in a single altitudinal zone, and the remaining forty-four (44) families were found in more than one (1) altitudinal zone. Most of the tree species were contagiously distributed, but a few of them were randomly distributed in all the altitudinal zones. The shrubs and herbs were contagiously distributed in all the altitudinal zones. The correlation analysis (P < 0.05) between altitude and number of species showed that altitude is negatively correlated with tree (r = −0.96), shrub (r = −0.61), and herb species (r = −0.20). As per the cluster analysis of tree layer, altitudinal zone - III (2450–2650 m) and altitudinal zone - IV (2900–3100 m) were found most similar. Altitudinal zone–V (3350–3550 m) was found to be dissimilar from the other zones for herbs.Although species composition varies with altitude, but there is a complex relationship between species richness and altitudinal gradient. A decreasing pattern in both species richness and family richness for trees, shrubs and herbs, was recorded with increasing altitude. The predominant factors underlying this variability in plant species and biogeography appear to be climatic and specific to each taxonomic group.