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Plant diversity as a good indicator of vegetation stability in a typical plateau wetland

ABSTRACT

Biotic indicators have been widely used to monitor wetland health. However, few studies have explicitly evaluated if plant diversity could serve as a useful community-level indicator of wetland stability, especially when wetlands are confronted with anthropogenic perturbations. Based on three-year record of wetland plant species abundance in Napahai plateau wetland, Shangri-la under the influence of varying anthropogenic perturbation types, our study tests the impact of such perturbations on plant richness and the relationship between ecosystem temporal stability and plant richness, and further assesses the effectiveness of using plant diversity indicator to probe ecosystem temporal stability of Napahai plateau wetland and the potential mechanisms. The results showed that anthropogenic perturbations could have contributed significantly to realistic variation in plant diversity, and further demonstrated that ecosystem temporal stability was positively related to realistic variation in plant diversity. In particular, communities with high levels of diversity might have better capacity to dampen perturbation impacts than communities with low levels of diversity, and statistical averaging could have played an important role in causing greater stability in more diverse communities. Also, asynchrony might have a stabilizing effect on community stability, and diversity could have stabilized communities through both species asynchrony and population stability propagation. Therefore, our results suggest that plant diversity could be used as a useful indicator of the stability conditions of plateau wetland ecosystems confronted with anthropogenic perturbations, and the preservation of plant communities at sufficient abundance and diversity is necessary for maintaining healthy plateau wetlands and for sustaining their essential ecosystem functions and services.