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Open AccessArticle

Common Patterns and Diverging Trajectories in Primary Succession of Plants in Eastern Alpine Glacier Forelands

Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Passau, Innstraße 40, D-94032 Passau, Germany
Diversity 2020, 12(5), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12050191
Received: 14 April 2020 / Revised: 6 May 2020 / Accepted: 9 May 2020 / Published: 12 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: chronosequence; Eastern Central Alps; glacier forelands; Little Ice Age; primary succession chronosequence; Eastern Central Alps; glacier forelands; Little Ice Age; primary succession
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MDPI and ACS Style

Fickert, T. Common Patterns and Diverging Trajectories in Primary Succession of Plants in Eastern Alpine Glacier Forelands. Diversity 2020, 12, 191.

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