Questions: (1) What are the most important abiotic environmental variables influencing succession in central European man-made habitats? (2) How do these variables interact with one another and with variation in community properties?
Location: Central, western and southern parts of the Czech Republic. Habitats included old fields, urban sites, spoil heaps after coal mining, sites at water reservoirs, extracted sand pit and peatland and reclaimed sites in areas deforested by air pollution.
Methods: We investigated vegetation patterns on 15 successional seres, sampled by the same methods. Time of succession over which the data were available ranged from 12 to 76 years. The cover of vascular plant species (in %) was estimated in 5 m × 5 m plots. The relationships between vegetation characteristics (species composition, total cover, cover of woody species, species number and rate of dominant species turnover) and 13 abiotic site factors, including climatic and soil variables, were tested using CCA ordination and regression models.
Results: Substratum pH, the only substratum characteristic, and climate were the environmental variables significantly affecting the vegetation patterns in the course of succession. The rate of succession, measured as the turnover of dominant species, was significantly more rapid in lowland than in mountain climates. On alkaline soils, species numbers in succession increased towards warmer climates. However, acid soils prevented any increase in species numbers, regardless of the climate. Surprisingly, forms of nitrogen and contents of C, P and cations did not exhibit any significant effect on the vegetation characteristics studied.
Conclusions: Our approach, to compare a number of seres, can contribute not only to our understanding of succession, but also to help restoration projects to predict vegetation change because the crucial environmental variables, as identified by this study, are easy to measure.
Nomenclature: Tutin et al. (1964–1980).