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Assigning plant communities to a successional phase: Time trends in abandoned limestone quarries

Gilardelli, F., Sgorbati, S., Armiraglio, S., Citterio, S., Gentili, R.
Plant biosystems 2016 v.150 no.4 pp. 799-808
basins, correspondence analysis, filters, introduced species, limestone, phanerophytes, plant communities, vegetation, Italy
We investigated spontaneous vegetation succession and the relationship between time and vegetation patterns in several abandoned quarries of the Botticino extraction basin (Lombardy, Italy) and then assigned plant assemblages to a predetermined theoretical successional phase using an original procedure. To recognise and validate the gradient due to time, an ordination approach of vegetation plots linked to constant variables and time since last mining Canonical Correspondence Analysis was conducted first. Then, to determine the durations of the vegetation succession phases and trends between the colonisers and late successional species, we used an original six-step procedure based primarily on the regression curve of the percent relative abundance of life forms (RALFs) over time. The results demonstrated that time is the primary factor that significantly affects life form turnover during succession. Vegetation establishment and development in the “pioneer phase” (0–6 years) were affected by abiotic filters, which determined the dominance of a few ruderal and annual/alien species, mostly therophytes. The successive phases were characterised by an increasing presence of perennial species (mostly phanerophytes) with a consequent influence of biotic filters. The RALF procedure may be applied to other environments to investigate the time trends of plant communities during successions.