Species diversity, community structure, and distribution patterns in western Himalayan alpine pastures of Kashmir, Pakistan

Western Himalayan alpine pastures are among the most diverse ecological locations on the globe. Four alpine pastures were investigated to study species distribution patterns, richness, similarity, and community structure in Bagh District, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. Four communities, Poa–Primula–Sibbaldia, Primula–Caltha–Primula, Poa alpina–Poa pratensis–Scirpus, and Sibbaldia–Poa–Scirpus, were identified on the basis of an importance value index. The average value of species richness was 1.42; Simpson's and Shannon–Wiener's diversity values were 3.13 and 0.91, respectively; the degree of maturity index was 44.1; and species evenness was 0.901. Local alpine flora was dominated by a hemicriptophytic life form with microphyllous leaf spectra. The species–environment correlation was analyzed using canonical correspondence analysis. A negative correlation of both diversity and richness was revealed with altitudinal gradient. Anthropogenic disturbances showed a significant negative impact on distribution of medicinal and palatable species. Unpalatable species dominated the local flora, indicating the heavy grazing pressure in the area. Development and implementation of regional conservation strategies are recommended to protect the threatened Himalayan alpine biodiversity.

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