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Anthropogenic disturbances affect population size and biomass allocation of two alpine species from the headwater area of the Urumqi River, China

Ruiming Zhao, Hua Zhang and Lizhe An

The survival of alpine plants are seriously threatened by increasing anthropogenic activity. Saussurea involucrata and Rhodiola quadrifida are particularly affected because of their high medicinal value. To assess the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on the two species, their population size and biomass allocation were examined at three levels of disturbance at low and high altitudes. Anthropogenic disturbance was the most serious threat to the populations and changed the population density, biomass, and biomass allocation of both species significantly (p<0.05). The changes differed with the species and the altitude, and were also affected by the interaction between these two factors. Population density and biomass of the two species decreased with an increase in the level of anthropogenic disturbance. These results imply that the decrease in population size and in biomass allocation to reproductive organs due to anthropogenic disturbances may make the plant populations even smaller and scarce. Meanwhile, change of making their survival dependent on the extent of anthropogenic disturbance: unless such disturbance is checked and the species are protected, they will probably disappear from the headwater area of the Urumqi River. This influence of anthropogenic disturbances may be potential threats to population ability of survival and reproduction

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