In stressful and harsh environments, safe sites for seedling recruitment may be created by nurse plants, which accumulate propagules and subsequently facilitate the establishment of individuals. The main goal of the presented studies focused on observations of seedling recruitment in small and large tussocks of Deschampsia caespitosa derived from patches of unmanaged Molinietum caeruleae meadows situated along the successional gradient and dominated by small meadow species (Patch I), by macroforbs (Patch II), or overgrown by trees and shrubs (Patch III).
The studies showed that, irrespective of patch character, Serratula tinctoria, Selinum carvifolia, Lysimachia vulgaris and Filipendula ulmaria are among the best colonizers of Deschampsia caespitosa tussocks. The gradual decrease in number of species and offspring abundance along the successional gradient may be connected with a prolonged period of water stagnation accelerating the development of fungal pathogens, a major cause of mortality for buried diaspores. The growing frequency of species present in standing vegetation and the gradually rising contribution of swamp and forest taxa in consecutive patches may be due to the production of non-persistent diaspores by early successional species, as well as reduced seed immigration from neighboring sites.
The obtained results included evidence that, regardless of patch character, the percentage of seedlings representing species present in and absent from existing vegetation as well as taxa with various vegetation types is similar in small and large tussocks. Furthermore, in small tussocks, regardless of patch character, anemochorous and hydrochorous taxa dominated, the frequency of endo- and epizoochorous taxa was much lower, while the percentage of species characterized by other modes of diaspore dispersal attained the lowest rates. In large tussocks, anemochorous and epizoochorous species prevailed, the share of endozoochorous and hydrochorous taxa was lower, and the contribution of species characterized by other modes of dissemination was very scarce.
On the basis of these studies it might be concluded that, despite the successive decrease of species and seedling abundance, and along with the increase in the recruitment of taxa resident in standing vegetation, especially woody species, the tussocks of Deschampsia caespitosa are reservoirs of meadow species even in advanced successional stages and may play a significant role in the process of long-term species turnover.