Questions: How does plant diversity (species richness, species abundance and rate of change) evolve in early succession on bare peat? Does succession converge towards one equilibrium stage or end up in several stages? Is there a regular pattern in succession velocity?
Location: A mire in the calcareous Jura Mountains of northwest Switzerland.
Method: Twenty-one 1-m2 permanent plots on bare peat were used to monitor temporal stages over a 21-year period (1988 to 2008) in a Swiss mire where a slide occurred in 1987. Species diversity and life forms were analysed based on Shannon's equitability index and cover. We used classification and metric ordination techniques to investigate patterns of successional rates and trends. The high temporal resolution of the survey allowed the pattern of succession velocity to be analysed.
Results: Species richness increased continuously over the 21 years of succession. The highest cover throughout the study period was the life form sedge. Time trajectories of the 21 plots revealed three alternative pathways towards intermediate equilibrium stages in the first years, still not converging in the later stages. Changes in succession velocity reached a first maximum about 6 years after the slide had occurred and a second maximum 12 years later.