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Rainfall fluctuations and vegetation patterns in alkali grasslands – using self-organizing maps to visualise vegetation dynamics

Lukács, Balázs András and Török, Péter and Kelemen, András and Várbíró, Gábor and Radócz, Szilvia and Miglécz, Tamás and Tóthmérész, Béla and Valkó, Orsolya (2015) Rainfall fluctuations and vegetation patterns in alkali grasslands – using self-organizing maps to visualise vegetation dynamics. Tuexenia. pp. 381-397. ISSN 0722-494X

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Abstract

Knowledge about the drivers of vegetation dynamics in grasslands is fundamental to select appro-priate management for conservation purposes. In this study, we provide a detailed analysis of vegeta-tion dynamics in alkali grasslands, a priority habitat of the Natura 2000 network. We studied vegetation dynamics in five stands of four alkali grassland types in the Hortobágy National Park (eastern Hunga-ry), between 2009 and 2011. We analysed the effect of fluctuations in precipitation on both the overall vegetation composition and on the cover of each species using Self Organizing Map neural networks (SOM). We found that SOM is a promising tool to reveal plant community dynamics. As we analysed species cover and overall vegetation composition separately, we were able to identify the species re-sponsible for particular vegetation changes. Fluctuations in precipitation (a dry season, followed by a wet and an average season) caused quick shifts in plant species composition because of an increasing cover of halophyte forbs, probably because of salinisation. We observed a similar effect of stress from waterlogging in all studied grassland types. The species composition of Puccinellia grasslands was the most stable over the three years with varying precipitation. This was important as this grassland type contained many threatened halophyte species. Self-organising maps revealed small-scale vegetation changes and provided a detailed visualisation of short-term vegetation dynamics, thus we suggest that the application of this method is also promising to reveal community dynamics in more species-rich habitat types or landscapes.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science / természettudomány > QH Natural history / természetrajz > QH540 Ecology / ökológia
Q Science / természettudomány > QK Botany / növénytan > QK30 Plant ecology. Plant ethology / növényökológia
Depositing User: Orsolya Valkó
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2016 13:39
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2016 13:39
URI: http://real.mtak.hu/id/eprint/42671

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