Vegetation-environment relationships in Atlantic European calcareous grasslands


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Abstract. The relationship between vegetation and environment was investigated for calcareous grasslands in a region in the west of Spain, France, Britain and Ireland defined by climatic criteria. Vegetation was sampled using objective methods and data collected on soils, land cover, location and management. Climate data were obtained from an available database. Examination of the first axis of vegetation variation as defined by Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA) showed a gradient from the Irish and British samples to those from France. The Spanish samples formed a separate group on the second axis. The species composition along the gradients is discussed. Correlations between the vegetation gradients and environmental variables were determined. The strongest correlations with the first DCA axis were for temperature, latitude, soil organic matter, grazing and land cover. The second DCA axis was highly correlated with rainfall, altitude and land cover. The third and fourth DCA axes were more difficult to interpret but appeared to be related to land cover. The results indicate that climate factors are important at this scale, but should not be considered in isolation and that factors relating to land cover and management should also be taken into account.