|Ruprecht, E; Szabó, A; Enyedi, MZ; Dengler, J: Steppe-like grasslands in Transylvania (Romania): characterisation and influence of management on species diversity and composition., Tuexenia, 29, 353-368 (2009)|
|Key words: abandonment, dry grassland, Festuco-Brometea, grazing, pine plantation, Stipion lessin- gianae|
In this paper we aim to present data on current state of steppe-like grasslands dominated by feather grasses (Stipa spp.) in the Transylvanian Lowland (Romania), and to investigate whether management type affects species composition, biodiversity, or the occurrence of rare and endangered vascular plant species in these grasslands. Twelve grassland stands, originating from nine areas and belonging to two associations, Stipetum lessingianae and Stipetum pulcherrimae from the alliance Stipion lessingianae (Festucetalia valesiacae, Festuco-Brometea), were investigated by phytosociological sampling. Our data set contains 60 relevés originating from differently managed grasslands: grazed and abandoned stands as well as former grasslands afforested with Pinus nigra. Transylvanian stands of the Stipion lessingianae occur on steep, south-facing slopes. The species composition has an accentuated sub-continental character, including several steppe elements of Siberian and Pontic origin, many of them reaching the western edge of their distribution in this region. By comparing the species composition of the two associations, we identified 12 differential species for the Stipetum lessingianae and 19 for the Stipetum pulcherrimae, but these associations also contained many species in common, which underlines their close syntaxonomic relatedness. Grazing vs. abandonment had only a slight influence on species composition and vegetation structure, while afforestation with pines resulted in strong transformations: decreased cover of the herb layer, increased cover of litter, decreased representation of diagnostic (i.e. typical) species of the two associations but increased frequency of woody, ruderal, and mesophytic grassland species. As the Stipion lessingianae belongs to the priority habitats of the Habitats Directive, these alterations call for grassland restoration measures. Our study revealed a lack of high-quality data on the vegetation of steppe-like dry grasslands in southeast Europe, where they have their largest and best-developed stands on the conti- nent. Thus, we emphasize the need for compiling such data and for developing a consistent supra- national vegetation classification of Festucetalia valesiacae communities in this region.