|Kuzemko, AA; Becker, T; Didukh, YP; Ardelean, IA; Becker, U; Beldean, M; Dolnik, C; Jeschke, M; Naqinezhad, A; Ugurlu, E; Ünal, A; Vassilev, K; Vorona, EI; Yavorska, OH; Dengler, J: Dry grassland vegetation of Central Podolia (Ukraine) – a preliminary overview of its syntaxonomy, ecology and biodiversity, Tuexenia, 34, 391-430 (2014), doi:10.14471/2014.34.020|
|Key words: bryophyte; conservation; European Dry Grassland Group; Festuco-Brometea; Galietalia veri; Koelerio-Corynephoretea; lichen; nomenclatural revision; species richness; vegetation classification; syntaxonomy, steppe; Ukraine; biodiversity|
We present the data of the 2nd research expedition of the European Dry Grassland Group (EDGG), which was conducted in 2010 in Central Podolia, Ukraine. The aim was to collect plot data to compare Ukrainian dry grasslands with those of other parts of Europe in terms of syntaxonomy and biodiversity. We sampled 21 nested-plot series (0.0001–100 m²) and 184 normal plots (10 m²) covering the full variety of dry grassland types occurring in the study region. For all plots, we recorded species composition of terrestrial vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens, while for the 226 10 m² plots we estimated and measured percentage cover of all species, structural, topographic, soil and landuse parameters. The 10-m² plots were used for phytosociological classification based on iteratively refined TWINSPAN classification as well as for DCA ordination. Differences between the derived vegetation types with respect to environmental conditions and species richness were assessed with ANOVAs. We assigned our plots to nine association-level units but refrained from placing them into formal associations with two exceptions. In the study area, dry grasslands of the Festuco-Brometea were far more common than those of the Koelerio-Corynephoretea. Among the Festuco-Brometea, xeric Festucetalia valesiacae grasslands were more frequent and represented by the Festucion valesiacae (2 associations, including the Allio taurici-Dichanthietum ischaemi ass. nova) and the Stipion lessingianae (1) compared to the Brachypodietalia pinnati with the Agrostio vinealis-Avenulion schellianae (3). The Koelerio-Corynephoretea were represented by three associations, each from a different order and alliance: basiphilous outcrops (Alysso alyssoidis-Sedetalia: Alysso alyssoidis-Sedion?), acidophilous outcrops (Sedo-Scleranthetalia: Veronico dillenii-Sedion albi?) and mesoxeric sandy grasslands (Trifolio arvensis-Festucetalia ovinae: Agrostion vinealis). We discuss the issue of the mesoxeric order Galietalia veri placed within the Molinio-Arrhenatheretea by Ukrainian authors and conclude that the content of that order would probably be better placed in the mesoxeric orders of the Koelerio-Corynephoretea and Festuco-Brometea. Other syntaxonomic questions could not be solved with our geographically limited dataset and await a supraregional analysis, e.g. whether the Ukrainian outcrop communities should be assigned to the same alliances as known from Central Europe or rather represent new vicariant units. The analysis of the biodiversity patterns showed that at a grain size of 10 m², Podolian Koelerio-Corynephoretea communities were overall richer than Festuco-Brometea communities (46.4 vs. 40.6 species). This difference was due to the Koelerio-Corynephoretea containing twice as many bryophytes and nine times more lichens, while vascular plant species richness did not differ significantly between classes. The orders within the classes showed no real differences in species richness. The richness patterns observed in Podolia were almost the opposite of those usually found in dry grasslands, where Brachypodietalia pinnati are richer than Festucetalia valesiacae, and these richer than stands of the Koelerio-Corynpehoretea – and we do not have a good explanation for these idiosyncrasies. In conclusion, Podolian dry grasslands behave quite unexpectedly regarding biodiversity, and their syntaxonomy is still poorly understood. These knowledge gaps can only be addressed with supra-national analyses based on comprehensive datasets.