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


  • Alina Baranova University of Hamburg, Institute of Geography, CEN Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, Hamburg
  • Udo Schickhoff University of Hamburg, Institute of Geography, CEN Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, Hamburg
  • Shunli Wang Academy of Water Resource Conservation Forest of Qilian Mountains (AWRCFQM), Zhangye, Gansu Province
  • Ming Jin Academy of Water Resource Conservation Forest of Qilian Mountains (AWRCFQM), Zhangye, Gansu Province


alpine vegetation, altitudinal gradient, Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA), Indicator Species Analysis (ISA), overgrazing, pasture degradation, species diversity


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 releve 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.


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How to Cite

Baranova, A., Schickhoff, U., Wang, S., & Jin, M. (2016). Mountain pastures of Qilian Shan: plant communities, grazing impact and degradation status (Gansu province, NW China). Hacquetia, 15(2). Retrieved from