Environmental variables drive plant species composition and distribution in the moist temperate forests of Northwestern Himalaya, Pakistan

Inayat Ur Rahman, Robbie E. Hart, Farhana Ijaz, Aftab Afzal, Zafar Iqbal, Eduardo S. Calixto, Elsayed Fathi Abd-Allah, Abdulaziz A. Alqarawi, Abeer Hashem, Al Bandari Fahad Al-Arjani, Rukhsana Kausar, Shiekh Marifatul Haq

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


By assessing plant species composition and distribution in biodiversity hotspots influenced by environmental gradients, we greatly advance our understanding of the local plant community and how environmental factors are affecting these communities. This is a proxy for determining how climate change influences plant communities in mountainous regions ("space-for-time" substitution). We evaluated plant species composition and distribution, and how and which environmental variables drive the plant communities in moist temperate zone of Manoor valley of Northwestern Himalaya, Pakistan. During four consecutive years (2015–2018), we sampled 30 sampling sites, measuring 21 environmental variables, and recording all plant species present in an altitudinal variable range of 1932–3168 m.a.s.l. We used different multivariate analyses to identify potential plant communities, and to evaluate the relative importance of each environmental variable in the species composition and distribution. Finally, we also evaluated diversity patterns, by comparing diversity indices and beta diversity processes. We found that (i) the moist temperate zone in this region can be divided in four different major plant communities; (ii) each plant community has a specific set of environmental drivers; (iii) there is a significant variation in plant species composition between communities, in which six species contributed most to the plant composition dissimilarity; (iv) there is a significant difference of the four diversity indices between communities; and (v) community structure is twice more influenced by the spatial turnover of species than by the species loss. Overall, we showed that altitudinal gradients offer an important range of different environmental variables, highlighting the existence of micro-climates that drive the structure and composition of plant species in each micro-region. Each plant community along the altitudinal gradient is influenced by a set of environmental variables, which lead to the presence of indicator species in each micro-region.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0260687
JournalPloS one
Issue number2 February
StatePublished - Feb 2022


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