Intensive land-use drives regional-scale homogenization of plant communities

Qingfu Liu, Alexander Buyantuev, Jianguo Wu, Jianming Niu, Deyong Yu, Qing Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Intensive anthropogenic land-use causes habitat loss and landscape homogenization, which leads to the decrease of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. Therefore, it is important to study the influence of landscape heterogeneity on biodiversity. In this study, vegetation surveys conducted at 53 sites in the Tabu River basin, located at the agro-pastoral ecotone of Inner Mongolia of China, revealed 146 species. Species diversity was evaluated at three scales: species richness within patches (alpha diversity), between patches (beta diversity) and at the landscape scale (gamma diversity). We analyzed landscape heterogeneity (LHtotal) and its driving factors including environmental variables (LHDFenv-var, such as precipitation and altitude), environmental heterogeneity (LHDFenv-het) and human activities (LHDFhum). We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to evaluate the response of species richness to landscape heterogeneity at three scales and determined the relative contribution of driving factors in explaining species diversity at these scales. The results of the study are summarized as follows: 1) Alpha diversity was the dominant component of gamma diversity in the Tabu River basin in Inner Mongolia. 2) There is no significant correlation (P = 0.512) between alpha diversity and LHtotal; with the increase of LHtotal beta and gamma diversities showed hump-shaped relationships. 3) LHDFenv-het was the primary factor in maintaining alpha diversity, with heterogeneity of mean annual precipitation (MAP), temperature (MAT) and altitude (ALT) acting as three largest contributors. LHDFhum primarily contributed to the maintenance of beta diversity. 4) LHDFhum was the primary contributor to gamma diversity, and human activity exceeded threshold values for positive effects. Based on our findings we suggest liming agricultural use along the river to prevent reductions in species diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)806-814
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 10 2018


  • Agro-pastoral ecotone
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Land use
  • Species diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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