This paper deals with the vegetation development in four glacier forelands, aligned along a distance of 250 km from West to East in the siliceous Eastern Central Alps. The study employs a chronosequence approach, which assumes a temporal sequence in vegetation development by spatially different sites regarding time since deglaciation. The chronosequences cover the area between Little Ice Age (LIA) maximum glacier extent around 1850, and the current glacier terminus. Despite some shortcomings, chronosequences allow the identification of general patterns of primary succession of plants as a function of site age and local environmental conditions, e.g., changes in species richness, ground cover, plant functional traits, and community structure. While there is no shortage of chronosequence studies in glacier forelands of the Alps, a straightforward comparison aimed at the deduction of general successional trajectories is tricky, due to different procedures of vegetation sampling and data analyses. The comparative examination by a standardized sampling and analyzing protocol of four glacier forelands in the Eastern Central Alps presented here proves the existence of several common patterns in primary succession, but also diverging successional trajectories from West to East. While the pioneer stage in all glacier forelands is similar both floristically and structurally, from the early successional stage onwards, differences increase, leading to different phases in the late successional stage, which is shrub dominated throughout in the westernmost study site, herb–grass–dwarfshrub dominated throughout in the easternmost study site, and divided into an earlier herb–grass–dwarfshrub phase and a later shrub phase in the two study sites in between.
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