Main content area

Topographically-controlled site conditions drive vegetation pattern on inland dunes in Poland

Sewerniak, Piotr, Jankowski, Michał
Acta oecologica 2017 v.82 pp. 52-60
Calamagrostis epigejos, Calluna vulgaris, Corynephorus, Pinus sylvestris, dunes, ecosystems, foresters, grasses, ground vegetation, microclimate, population characteristics, seedlings, soil properties, species diversity, topography, trees, vegetation, Central European region, Poland
The inland dunes of Central Europe are commonly overplanted by Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) monocultures in which the primary occurrence of the natural vegetation pattern is obliterated. We hypothesize that on naturally revegetated inland dunes the pattern is clear and driven by topographically-controlled site conditions. To test this hypothesis, we addressed the following research questions: (1) Does topography drive vegetation patterns on inland dunes and if so, what are main differences between vegetation in varying relief positions? (2) To what extent does topography involve the variability of microclimates and of soil properties, and how does the topographically-induced differentiation of these site conditions control vegetation patterns? We conducted interdisciplinary studies (applying floristic, pedological and microclimatic research techniques) on a naturally revegetated inland dune area situated on a military artillery training ground near Toruń, northern Poland. We investigated vegetation patterns with reference to three topographical position variants (north-facing slopes, south-facing slopes, and intra-dune depressions). We found distinct differences in vegetation characteristics covering the aforementioned topographical positions. This primarily concerned species composition of ground vegetation: Calluna vulgaris was dominant species on north-facing slopes, Corynephorus canescens on south-facing slopes, while Calamagrostis epigejos in intra-dune depressions. In comparison to dune slopes, the depressions were characterized by much higher biodiversity of vascular plant species. This followed the most favorable soil conditions for the existence of plants (higher moisture and nutrient pools) occurring in low topographical positions. However, tree succession was most advanced not in depressions, where the competitive impact of tall grasses on seedlings was recognized, but on north-facing slopes. Based on our results, we formulated some suggestions, which could be useful for both practical foresters to increase biodiversity of ecosystems and for practices that work on the fixation of dunes by restoring vegetation.