Question: Is the vegetation of meadow and mountain steppes distinct from the ground vegetation of light taiga forests in the transitional zone between these biomes?
Location: Western Khentey Mountains, northern Mongolia.
Methods: Vegetation was recorded from 100-m2 plots from all dominant types of light taiga forest and dry grassland. Distinctness of ground vegetation was studied with Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA).
Results: Ground vegetation in the light taiga was significantly different from the herbal vegetation of meadow and mountain steppes. Clear separation was only absent for the Carex amgunensis meadow steppes that occur in a narrow strip along the forest edge and are partly shaded by trees. Forest and steppe communities followed a moisture gradient according to the DCA ordination with light taiga forests at the moistest sites and steppe communities at the driest sites. Ulmus pumila open woodlands diverged from this pattern, because of their close spatial and phytosociological relationship to mountain steppes.
Conclusions: The present results do not support the assumption that grasslands in Mongolia's transitional zone between forest and steppe would generally resemble the ground vegetation of light taiga forests. This contradicts a published hypothesis stating that the vegetation of meadow and mountain steppes would not clearly differ from ground vegetation of light taiga forests in the forest-steppe transitional zone of Mongolia.
Nomenclature: Gubanov (1996).