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Abstract Detail

Economic Botany Section

Ross, Nanci [1], Hart, Robbie [2].

Seeing the meadow beyond the grazing yaks: rhododendrons & alpine plant distributions.

Alpine meadows of the Eastern Himalaya have been shown to be home to enormous plant diversity. More than 60% of that diversity is utilized by local people for medicines and other cultural purposes. The meadows are also important as grazing lands for yaks. In recent years, the number of yaks has increased dramatically leading to enhanced grazing pressure on alpine forb species. Interviews with local yak herders suggest that Rhododendrons may act as a refuge for many forb species. We investigated the role of poisonous Rhododendron shrubs, a ubiquitous component of alpine meadows, as potential “grazing shields” that enhance the survival and reproductive success of alpine forbs growing near or under the shrubs. 120 plots in three alpine meadows were censused to compare species composition and abundance of forbs growing directly under Rhododendron shrubs, on the margins of shrubs, and in the open meadows. The species composition for forbs growing both under and on the edge zones of Rhodendron shrubs was found to be significantly different from open meadow areas. In addition, the shrubs enhance flowering success for plants growing under their protective area. Increasing pressure from grazing and land use changes suggest that these shrubs may play a key role in maintaining the high diversity of alpine areas in the Eastern Himalaya as well as protecting the needed medicines of the local peoples.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - Drake University, Biology Department, Olin Hall Room 208, 1344 27th Street, Des Moines, IA, 50311, USA
2 - Missouri Botanical Garden, William L. Brown Center, PO Box 299 , St. Louis, MO, 63166-0299, USA

alpine plants
Eastern Himalaya
grazing pressure
plant distribution
biodiversity hotspot
Medicinal Plants.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 1
Location: Napoleon Ballroom/Riverside Hilton
Date: Monday, July 29th, 2013
Time: 9:30 AM
Number: 1006
Abstract ID:390
Candidate for Awards:None

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