The streams in a watershed form a hierarchical network system. From the perspective of the river continuum, this classification system is the result of gradual increase in traffic. This study analyzed the riparian species richness, diversity and environmental factors along a six-order hierarchical mountain river in the Donghe watershed, China. A total of 34 sampling sites were sampled to study the spatial distribution of riparian plants among different stream orders. The results showed: Environmental factors among stream orders had significant differences. Among stream order, species richness showed remarkable differences. The species richness rose firstly and dropped afterwards except for tree species richness; tree species richness decreased while stream order increased. The same is true for shrub quadrat species richness. Shannon-Wiener diversity, Simpson dominance and Pielou uniformity showed significant difference among stream orders; Shannon-Wiener diversity rose firstly then dropped afterwards. For integrated environmental factors and community characteristics, we found the changes of stream orders had a significant impact on riparian habitats and riparian vegetation. Further analysis showed that riparian vegetation experienced different types and degrees of disturbance in different stream orders. This meant that a hierarchical management strategy should be applied to riparian vegetation management.

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