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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (10): 1054-1070    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0020-6
Research article     
Disturbance of plateau zokor-made mound stimulates plant community regeneration in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China
XIANG Zeyu1, Arvind BHATT1, TANG Zhongbin1, PENG Yansong1, WU Weifeng1, ZHANG Jiaxin1, WANG Jingxuan1, David GALLACHER2, ZHOU Saixia1,*()
1Lushan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jiujiang 332900, China
2School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Narrabri NSW 2390, Australia
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Mounds constructed by plateau zokors, which is widely distributed in alpine meadows significantly modified plant community structure. However, the variations of plant community structure under the disturbance of plateau zokor-made mound are less concerned. Therefore, we investigated the responses of plant community on zokor-made mound of different years (1 a and 3-4 a), and compared with undisturbed sites (no mound) in an alpine meadow in the eastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP), China. Species richness, coverage and Simpson diversity index were all significantly reduced by the presence of zokor-made mound, but plant heights were significantly increased, particularly in grasses and sedges. Several perennial forage species showed an increased importance value and niche breadth, including Koeleria macrantha, Elymus nutans and Poa pratensis. The effect of zokor-made mound on niche overlap showed that more intense interspecific competition produced a greater utilization of environmental resources. And this interspecific niche overlap was strengthened as succession progressed. The bare mound created by zokor burrowing activities provided a colonizing opportunity for non-dominant forage species, resulting in abundant plant species and plant diversity during the succession period. We concluded that presence of zokor-made mound was conducive to regeneration and vitality of plant community in alpine meadows, thus improving their resilience to anthropogenic stress.

Key wordsrodent      mound      zokor disturbance      alpine meadow      vegetation recovery      niche     
Received: 20 January 2021      Published: 10 October 2021
Corresponding Authors: ZHOU Saixia     E-mail:
Cite this article:

XIANG Zeyu, Arvind BHATT, TANG Zhongbin, PENG Yansong, WU Weifeng, ZHANG Jiaxin, WANG Jingxuan, David GALLACHER, ZHOU Saixia. Disturbance of plateau zokor-made mound stimulates plant community regeneration in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(10): 1054-1070.

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Index Mound type Statistical result
1 a 3-4 a No mound F or H P
Species richness 18.44±4.50ab 13.56±6.86a 21.56±6.93b F2,24=3.81 0.037
Coverage (%) 82.56±3.17a 91.56±4.82b 97.44±1.33b H=20.25 <0.001
Height (cm) 13.48±0.72a 13.50±1.08a 12.43±0.69b F2,24=4.70 0.019
Simpson diversity index 0.958±0.005a 0.941±0.013a 0.967±0.001b H=21.08 <0.001
Shannon-Wiener diversity index 2.355±0.428 1.906±0.623 2.538±0.518 F2,24=3.40 0.050
Pielou evenness index 0.810±0.080 0.756±0.077 0.831±0.084 F2,24=2.05 0.151
Table 1 Effect of zokor-made mound on plant community structure
Fig. 1 Species richness (a-d), coverage (e-h) and height (i-l) for each plant functional group and zokor-made mound type. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among different types of zokor-made mound at P<0.05 level.
No. Species Functional group Life
1 a 3-4 a No mound
IV Oik IV Oik IV Oik
S1 Koeleria macrantha (Ledeb.) Schult. Grass P 0.067 11.909 0.090 7.422 0.029 6.962
S2 Elymus nutans Griseb. Grass P 0.048 9.767 0.076 12.948 0.014 -10.019
S3 Avena fatua L. Grass A 0.007 -10.809 - - - -
S4 Poa pratensis L. Grass P 0.043 6.442 0.073 15.020 0.013 -10.020
S5 Festuca rubra L. Grass P 0.016 -0.683 0.010 -8.317 0.051 8.599
S6 Festuca ovina L. Grass P - - 0.038 -1.328 0.011 -10.134
S7 Kobresia capillifolia (Decne.) C. B. Clarke Sedge P 0.011 -7.626 - - 0.044 2.442
S8 Trichophorum distigmaticum (Kük.) T. V. Egorova Sedge P 0.030 0.733 0.054 -4.205 0.031 0.686
S9 Carex kansuensis Nelmes Sedge P 0.026 1.543 0.087 -0.848 0.037 7.012
S10 Astragalus craibianus G. Simpson Legume P 0.025 6.854 0.012 -4.787 0.025 4.189
S11 Tibetia himalaica (Baker) H. P. Tsui Legume P 0.015 -2.189 0.013 0.836 0.045 9.453
S12 Oxytropis ochrocephala Bunge Legume P - - - - 0.033 9.053
S13 Artemisia annua L. Forb A 0.104 7.983 0.008 -4.603 - -
S14 Anaphalis lactea Maxim. Forb P 0.047 5.788 0.004 -8.326 0.045 8.129
S15 Saussurea nigrescens Maxim. Forb P 0.026 6.589 0.014 1.703 0.062 10.708
S16 Taraxacum lugubre Dahlst. Forb P 0.003 -10.802 - - 0.009 -5.799
S17 Cirsium periacanthaceum C. Shih Forb P 0.011 -10.812 - - - -
S18 Leontopodium nanum (Hook.f. & Thomson ex Hook.f. & Thomson) Hand.-Mazz. Forb P - - 0.004 -8.314 - -
S19 Leontopodium stracheyi (Hook.f.) C. B. Clarke ex Hemsl. Forb P - - - - 0.012 -5.540
S20 Ajania tenuifolia Tzvelev Forb P - - - - 0.014 -0.940
S21 Saussurea graminea Dunn Forb P - - - - 0.005 -9.958
S22 Potentilla anserina L. Forb P 0.033 7.290 0.011 -8.363 0.029 9.214
S23 Potentilla nivea L. Forb P 0.004 -10.275 0.012 1.471 0.023 4.662
S24 Delphinium caeruleum Jacquem. ex Cambess. Forb P 0.011 -8.966 0.008 -8.318 0.018 -5.468
S25 Trollius farreri Stapf Forb P 0.015 2.063 0.010 1.871 0.006 -9.927
S26 Ranunculus tanguticus (Maxim.) Ovcz. Forb P 0.037 8.548 0.012 1.821 0.033 10.286
S27 Anemone rivularis Buch.-Ham. ex DC. Forb P 0.019 1.721 0.005 -8.314 0.035 11.582
No. Species Functional group Life
1 a 3-4 a No mound
IV Oik IV Oik IV Oik
S28 Gentianopsis paludosa (Hook. f.) Ma Forb A 0.007 -10.278 0.008 -4.527 0.007 -9.923
S29 Halenia elliptica D. Don Forb A 0.029 6.296 0.005 -8.319 0.017 -1.326
S30 Gentiana ornata (D.Don) Wall. ex Griseb. Forb P 0.008 -9.063 0.007 -4.538 0.036 6.973
S31 Gentiana leucomelaena Maxim. Forb A - - - - 0.014 2.500
S32 Gentiana abaensis T. N. Ho Forb A - - - - 0.006 -10.050
S33 Lancea tibetica Hook. f. & Thomson Forb P 0.011 -4.665 0.025 11.953 0.012 -0.878
S34 Veronica eriogyne H. Winkl. Forb P 0.031 5.965 0.012 1.923 0.017 -5.860
S35 Pedicularis kansuensis Maxim. Forb A - - 0.004 -8.327 0.005 -9.936
S36 Epilobium royleanum Hausskn. Forb P 0.010 -9.068 - - - -
S37 Plantago depressa Willd. Forb A 0.020 2.053 0.024 5.694 0.010 -5.725
S38 Stellaria infracta Maxim. Forb P 0.027 8.462 0.037 14.024 - -
S39 Equisetum arvense L. Forb P 0.006 -7.658 0.006 -4.123 - -
S40 Geranium pylzowianum Maxim. Forb P 0.022 2.887 - - 0.009 -5.624
S41 Allium sikkimense Baker Forb P - - 0.030 5.650 0.026 4.678
Table 2 Importance value (IV) and ecological attribute value (ΔOik) for each plant species under different types of zokor-made mound
Fig. 2 Shannon-Wiener niche breadth index (a), Levins niche breadth index (b) and Hurlbert niche breadth index (c) of plant species under different types of zokor-made mound. S1-S41 indicate plant species.
Table S1 Coefficient of niche overlap in 1 a zokor-made mound
Table S2 Coefficient of niche overlap in 3-4 a zokor-made mound
Table S3 Coefficient of niche overlap in no mound
Fig. 3 Ecological response rates (R) of plant species under different types of zokor-made mound. R-NBSW, ecological response rate of Shannon-Wiener index (a); R-NBL, ecological response rate of Levins index (b); R-NBH, ecological response rate of Hurlbert index (c). S1-S41 indicate plant species.
Fig. 4 Principal components analysis (PCA) of niche breadth under different types of zokor-made mound. S1-S41 indicate plant species.
Fig. 5 Principal components analysis (PCA) of ecological response rate under different types of zokor-made mound. S1-S41 indicate plant species.
Fig. 6 Coefficients of niche overlap of plant species under different types of zokor-made mound. (a), 1 a mound; (b), 3-4 a mound; (c), no mound. Bars are standard errors. * indicates significant difference among plant species at P<0.05 level. S1-S41 indicate plant species.
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