Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (4): 21385.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2021385

Special Issue: 青藏高原生物多样性与生态安全

• Original Papers: Plant Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Distribution patterns of medicinal plant diversity and their conservation priorities in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Rensheng Zhao1, Shijia Xu1, Pengfei Song1,2, Xiang Zhou1,2, Yazhou Zhang2,*(), Yan Yuan1,*()   

  1. 1 Key Lab of Chemistry in Ethnic Medicinal Resources, State Ethnic Affairs Commission & Ministry of Education of China, School of Ethnic Medicine, Yunnan Minzu University, Kunming 650504
    2 Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303
  • Received:2021-09-22 Accepted:2021-12-23 Online:2022-04-20 Published:2022-03-11
  • Contact: Yazhou Zhang,Yan Yuan
  • About author:First author contact:#Co-first authors


Aims: The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) harbors abundant resources of medicinal plants, but the public still lacks the knowledge of the distribution pattern of medicinal plant diversity. The public also has poor understanding of the effects of human activities on the resources of medicinal plants.

Methods: In this study, we collected the distribution data of 254 medicinal plant species and quantified human activities in the QTP. Then we analyzed the diversity and endemism patterns and the effects of potential threats to medicinal plants. Finally we identified the conservation priority areas for medicinal plant resources.

Results: Our results showed that the diversity and endemism of medicinal plants in the QTP are primarily concentrated in the eastern and southeastern regions. We found that stronger human influence overlapped with higher diversity and endemism of medicinal plants, and that these human activities all had a significant impact on diversity and endemism. We further use an algorithm combining biological and human factors to identify conservation priority areas, including northwestern Yunnan, southwestern and western Sichuan, eastern Qinghai and central Tibet, which revealed that the current protected areas in the QTP do not effectively protect hotspots identified in this study, and there is an abundance of conservation gaps.

Conclusion: This study provides some suggestions on the protection of medicinal plant resources in the QTP, including improving laws, regulations and policy supervision, establishing more protection areas, supplementing the list of protected plants, strengthening the popularization of science, and promoting the collection, preservation and development of medicinal plant resources. These suggested measures will guide conservation policies and the delineation of protected areas in the future. We hope this study will publicize the serious threats of medicinal plants and arouse the attention of the public to conservation in the QTP.

Key words: Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, medicinal plant, conservation priority, human activity