Questions: Is vegetation composition of ombrotrophic bogs with an undisturbed water regime resistant or sensitive to ongoing high atmospheric deposition and climatic changes?
Location: The Sudeten Mountains (Czech Republic).
Methods: Species composition of bryophytes and vascular plants was sampled in 25 permanent plots in suboceanic bogs of the Jizerské hory Mountains and in 26 permanent plots in subcontinental bogs of the Hrubý Jeseník Mountains. The permanent plots were established and first sampled in 1991. These plots were re-sampled after 14 and 17 years, respectively. We also used historical vegetation plots (1947–1949; 1980) from the same localities in order to reveal possible changes that might start earlier. Water chemistry was analysed annually, usually three times a year. Compositional changes were analysed by PERMANOVA, β-diversity changes by PERMDISP and other changes by t-test and Fisher's exact test.
Results: At the community level, no statistically significant changes were detected in permanent plots (PERMANOVA, PERMDISP), either in hollows or in hummocks, but the vegetation composition changed between the oldest (historical) and the newest data sets. At the level of functional groups, cover of Cyperaceae significantly decreased and cover of other herbs (excluding graminoids) and Sphagna increased in the Hrubý Jeseník Mountains, whereas no changes were detected in the Jizerské hory Mountains. Cover of ericoid dwarf shrubs has not changed in either area. At the level of particular species, the frequency of Sphagnum magellanicum, Carex limosa, Scheuchzeria palustris and Vaccinium myrtillus decreased, while the frequency of Straminergon stramineum, Sphagnum recurvum agg., Eriophorum angustifolium and Luzula sylvatica increased. These changes were more evident when recent and historical data were compared.
Conclusions: When water regime is not affected, the bog vegetation seems to be rather resistant to high atmospheric deposition and climate fluctuation. A significant change of the species composition occurs only in the long-term perspective. Particular species could, however, decrease or increase their frequencies more rapidly. For some of these species a positive or negative response to nitrogen availability was also found in other studies, whereas for other species further research is needed in order to separate the effects of atmospheric deposition and internal ecosystem dynamics.