Complex responses of vegetation diversity to Holocene climate change in the eastern Tibetan Plateau

Chen Liang, Yan Zhao*, Feng Qin, Qiao Yu Cui, Quan Li, Huan Li, Zhi Yong Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Biodiversity has attracted much attention recently due to its important relationships with ecosystem function under various global warming scenarios. However, an understanding of biodiversity mechanisms requires study over long time scales. Three high-resolution pollen records of Zoige Basin in the eastern Tibetan Plateau are used to reconstruct changes in vegetation diversity during the Holocene, allowing the mechanisms that drove the dynamic to be quantitatively explored. Rarefaction and Hill’s indices are used to estimate the diversity richness and evenness based on pollen data. The results show that changes in palynological richness can be divided into five stages: an abnormal change from 10,500 to 9,000 cal bp, an obvious increase from 9,000 to 6,500 cal bp, a decreasing trend from 6,500 to 4,000 cal bp, an increasing trend after 4,000 cal bp until 1,500 cal bp, and a highly fluctuating stage from 1,500 cal bp to the present. Palynological evenness is relatively stable throughout the Holocene except for during a briefly elevated period from ca. 4,000 to 1,500 cal bp. The result of Boosted Regression Tree analysis indicates that climate is the main driving factor and the effect of temperature is stronger than that of precipitation in the study region. However, during ca. 4,000–1,500 cal bp, palynological diversity is primarily affected by vegetation structure, as shown by an increase in palynological evenness, which can in turn be explained by the climate threshold theory. This research provides a long-term, high-resolution reconstruction of palynological diversity which could be used to infer vegetation diversity change in the ecologically sensitive Tibetan Plateau. The results imply that vegetation diversity in the region may increase under global warming if human impacts are not considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379–390
Number of pages12
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number4
Early online date17 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2019


Acknowledgements This research was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant #2016YFA0600501) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project #s 41330105, 41690113 and 41471169).

FundersFunder number
National Natural Science Foundation of China41330105, 41471169, 41690113
National Key Research and Development Program of China2016YFA0600501


    • Driving mechanisms
    • Holocene
    • Quantitative reconstruction
    • Tibetan Plateau
    • Vegetation diversity


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