Vegetation Succession Pattern and Diversity Changes in a Glacier Valley, Central Alps, Austria

Raffl C., Mallaun M., Mayer R. & Erschbamer B.
Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
38(3): 421-428
The aim of this study was to assess the influence of comparable unequal environmental conditions on primary vegetation succession in an alpine glacier valley by the means of transects. Two longitudinal transects were established along the glacier foreland of the Rotmoosferner, Tyrol, Austria, and two transverse transects were established across the valley on the 1923 and 1858 moraines. The progressions of alpha- and beta-diversity were compared, and vegetation data within the glacier foreland were analyzed. Moraine age emerged as the primary factor within a canonical correspondence analysis (CCA), while the second axis separated the two valley sides. A clearly differentiated development of plant communities became obvious especially within the early development stages. Early development of vegetation cover and alpha diversity was further developed on the shaded valley side, and progression of beta diversity differed significantly among the valley sides. The results indicate two different successional pathways, on both the qualitative and the quantitative level. These can be attributed to differences in the extent of solar irradiation (sunny vs. shaded side), lithology, geomorphic processes, and a multitude of other factors, reinforcing the dissimilarity between the valley sides. Our approach highlights the necessity of a deliberate sampling design within different glacier forelands sensitive to environmental conditions created by the topography that may impact comparisons among the forelands
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