Is the vegetation inside Carex sempervirens tussocks highly specific or an image of the surrounding vegetation?

; ; ; ; (). Is the vegetation inside Carex sempervirens tussocks highly specific or an image of the surrounding vegetation?. Journal of Vegetation Science, 17 477-486.. Peer reviewed.

Is the vegetation inside Carex sempervirens tussocks highly specific or an image of the surrounding vegetation?

Questions: How do species diversity, frequency and composition in tussocks differ from those in similar sized plots outside tussocks? Does the extent of the differences depend on community types or environmental conditions?

Location: A sub-alpine grassland in the Swiss National Park.

Methods: In each of the two communities (short grass and tall graminoid) differing in species composition, grazing intensity and soil nutrient availability, relevés were made in 40 pairs of small circular plots, with one plot located inside a randomly selected Carex sempervirens tussock and the other outside.

Results: We found 92 vascular species, of which 46 had a frequency higher than 5%. Species richness (S), pooled cover, Shannon’s diversity (H) and cumulative species number (CS) were higher outside than inside the C. sempervirens tussocks, but evenness (J) was lower. S, H and CS differed more in the tall graminoid community than in the short grass community. However, dissimilarity between the paired relevés inside and outside tussocks did not differ between the two communities. Of the 46 most frequent species, 12 were statistically more and only one less frequent outside than inside the tussocks. Vegetation inside and outside tussocks could be clearly distinguished in the ordination space.

Conclusion: Vegetation inside C. sempervirens tussocks is different from that in the surrounding area and represents an impoverished but homogenized version of the surrounding vegetation. Although tussocks of C. sempervirens were systematically avoided by grazers, there is little evidence that tussocks facilitate the species growing inside them.