A non-linear relationship between phytodiversity and altitude has widely been reported, but the relationship between phytomass and altitude remains little understood. We examined the phytomass and diversity of vascular plants along altitudinal gradients on the dry alpine rangelands of Ladakh, western Himalaya. We used generalized linear and generalized additive models to assess the relationship between these vegetation parameters and altitude. We found a hump-shaped relationship between aboveground phytomass and altitude. We suspect that this is engendered by low rainfall and trampling/excessive grazing at lower slopes by domestic livestock, and low temperature and low nutrient levels at higher slopes. We also found a unimodal relationship between plant species-richness and altitude at a single mountain as well as at the scale of entire Ladakh. The species-richness at the single mountain peaked between 5,000 and 5,200 m, while it peaked between 3,500 and 4,000 m at entire Ladakh level. Perhaps biotic factors such as grazing and precipitation are, respectively, important in generating this pattern at the single mountain and entire Ladakh. ?? 2011 The Author(s).
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Biomass and diversity of dry alpine plant communities along altitudinal gradients in the Himalayas