Intensified grazing has been blamed as the main cause of grassland degradation across the Tibetan plateau. But the importance of environmental variability has been overlooked and several methodological problems exist in previous degradation assessments. This study compared five indicator groups among four levels of livestock activity at multiple sites across three main habitats. The results showed plant species composition and soil fertility changed by livestock grazing, but not in steppes, and responses were largely caused by mechanical disturbance, but not exclusively by grazing intensification. Heavy grazing only increased richness and cover of annual herbs and reduced soil organic carbon and total nitrogen in meadows. Precipitation pattern and temperature were important for plants and fauna groups separately. Non-equilibrium concept may apply not only in steppes, but also in alpine meadows because of the snow events might affect grassland conditions. The overall threat of grassland degradation due to intensified grazing is not generally high across habitat types.