Pattern of native vegetation, distribution of alien species and variation of environmental parameters were studied in mountain grasslands in a lithologically homogeneous Córdoba mountain range in Central Argentina. CCA showed that altitude was the most important factor determining the compositional variation of the vegetation, with soil nutrient status and stoniness as additional factors. Short-grass communities, associated with the driest habitats on plateaus, showed higher small-scale native species richness than wet-turf communities in valleys and tall-grass communities on slopes. Species richness was negatively correlated with soil parameters that indicate nutrient status and water availability. Also, there was a negative correlation between soil Ca- and Mg-content and richness. High native species richness coincided with high alien species richness. When smaller units – community types – were considered, it became evident that within short-grass vegetation, the three most species-rich community types contained significant numbers of alien species, while the other two did not. Even within one community type, the same quadrats that contained the highest number of native species, were also characterized by the highest numbers of alien species. Evidently, the same mechanism was responsible for high richness of both native and alien species. Alien species were distinguished by a greater proportion of annuals and prostrate stoloniferous plants, by lower palatability and by smaller proportion of zoochory.
DCA ordination of quadrats on the basis of plant traits as attributes resulted in a clear distinction of three main vegetation types. Short-grass vegetation was distinguished by a predomination of late flowering species, tall-grass vegetation by the presence of high herbaceous plants and bushes, and wet-turf vegetation by the presence of plants with storage organs, the lack of hairy leaves, and by a high proportion of cryptophytes. Quadrats with and without alien species were distinguished as well, indicating that the occurrence of aliens may be dependent on plant traits in a particular patch of a community.
Nomenclature: Cantero & Bianco (1986).