Question: Are there effects of long-term deposition of airborne nitrogen and sulphur on the forest floor vegetation from permanent plots collected in 1993 compared to 2005.
Location: Northern limestone Alps in Austria.
Methods: Single species responses were analysed by correlating trends in cover-abundance values, as derived from marginal models, with Ellenberg indicator values. Changes in the species composition of plots were analysed by correlating changes in mean Ellenberg indicator values with the displacement of plots within a multidimensional scaling ordination.
Results: Trends in single species abundance were positively correlated with indicator values of soil pH but were independent of nutrient availability. A general trend towards the homogenisation of vegetation, due to convergent time vectors of the relevés, became obvious. Oligotrophic sites previously situated at the distal ends of ordination axes shifted towards the centre since they were enriched by species preferring mesotrophic conditions. The bulk of plots with intermediate site conditions hardly showed any trends. A concomitant analysis demonstrated that temporal changes in species composition exceed the variation in cover abundance estimates among different field botanists.
Conclusions: N deposition can lead to a homogenisation of forest floor vegetation. Larger limestone areas with diverse soil conditions, such as the Northern limestone Alps in Austria, as a whole are thus negatively affected by airborne N deposition. Nevertheless, the vegetation was at least as strongly affected by an increase of basiphilous species as a result of decreasing S deposition.
Nomenclature: Adler et al. (1994).