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Keywords:

  • Ordination;
  • Restoration;
  • Species number;
  • Succession;
  • Target species

Abstract

Questions

(1) How do seres differ with respect to vegetation changes? (2) What are the directions of succession? (3) How do species numbers change? (4) How do target species, i.e. those typical of natural and semi-natural vegetation, participate in succession? (5) Are spontaneously developed successional stages acceptable from the point of view of ecosystem restoration?

Location

Extracted peatlands, bulldozed sites in forests destroyed by air pollution, an emerged bottom of a water reservoir, corridors of former Iron Curtain, artificial fishpond islands and barriers, sedimentary basins, spoil heaps from mining, stone quarries, forest clearings, road verges, sand and gravel-sand pits, ruderal urban sites, river gravel bars and abandoned arable fields, located in various parts of the Czech Republic in Central Europe.

Methods

Phytosociological relevés were recorded in 10–25 m2 plots located in the centre of representative successional stages defined by their age, ranging from 1 to 100 yrs. In total, we obtained 2392 vegetation samples containing 951 species. We performed DCA ordination to compare 19 seres. Desirable target species were considered as those representing (semi)-natural vegetation and all Red List species.

Results

The seres studied are more similar in their species composition in the initial and early stages, in which synathropic species prevail, than in the later stages when the vegetation differentiates. This divergence is driven mainly by local moisture conditions. In most cases, succession led to woodland, which usually established after ca. 20 yrs. In very dry or wet places (with limited presence of woody species) open vegetation developed, often highly valuable from the restoration and conservation point of view. The total number of species and the number of target species increased in the majority of seres with successional age.

Conclusions

The vegetation in the sites studied formed a continuum along a moisture gradient and by successional age. The individual seres largely overlapped in their species composition; the sere identity was not significant. Spontaneous succession usually proceeded towards woodland, except at very dry or wet sites, and generally appeared to be an ecologically suitable way of ecosystem restoration of disturbed sites because target species became dominant over time.