Reed (Phragmites australis agg.) dominated plant communities in the Lower Volga Valley

V. B. Golub, V. V. Bondareva, A. N. Sorokin, L. F. Nikolaychuk



Plant communities with reed domination (Phragmites australis agg.) occupy the large areas in the Lower Volga Valley and especially in the river delta. We have set the task to reveal the diversity of these communities in the Lower Volga Valley. For this purpose, we applied the database that is registered in the Global Index of Vegetation-Plot Databases (GIVD) under the EU-RU–002 index ( and includes 14871 relevés made during the period from 1924 to 2013.

Communities with the dominance of reed were defined as such, if the coverage of this plant was more than 50 %. We have found 375 such relevés in the database. At first, one basal community, 3 associations and 3 subassociations with domination of Phragmites australis agg. were distinguished in the Lower Volga Valley.

All processing and analysis of relevés were performed using the software package JUICE 7.0. (Tichý, 2002). The «Cocktail» method was applied to establish the sociological groups that indicate environmental conditions (Bruelheide, 2000). The expert system for selection from the database of relevés by means of these groups was created. It is allowed us to ascribe relevés to earlier distinguished associations, subassociations and basal community. 171 relevés have been identified by the expert system and they were assigned to association, subassociation or the basal community. 204 relevés were not referred to any association, subassociation or the basal community.

We wanted to answer the question: are there among these 204 relevés, which could be interpreted as the new syntaxa, giving them the proper ecological characteristics? For this purpose, the cluster analysis of 204 relevés has been carried out. The optimal level of clustering was determined by calculating the index of “crispness of classification” (Botta-Dukát et al., 2005). The greatest “crispness of classification” was reached at allocation of 13 clusters. Consideration of the floristic composition of allocated groups had shown that 11 of them were the transitional plant communities among the earlier established syntaxa. Only two clusters were differed in rather original structure that we could explain by the influence of environment factors. We have identified them as new associations Rubio tataricae-Phragmitetum australis and Cynancho acuti-Phragmitetum australis.

All associations with the dominance of Phragmites australis agg. distinguished in the Lower Volga Valley were included in the alliance Phragmition communis Koch 1926, order Phragmitetalia communis Koch 1926. In literary sources from the ecological point of view these syntaxa are defined as the wetland communities, which are closely linked to water bodies (Šumberová et al., 2011; Ermakov, 2012). However, in many cases this definition does not correspond to the ecology of plant communities with the dominance of reed in the lower reaches of the Volga River. Ecotops of these communities are flooded for up to 2–3 months in a year and then they dry out. In the autumn, the ground water level can drop to a depth of one meter (Golub et al., 2011). The plant satellites of the reed here are often mesophytic plants such as Rubus caesius, Calamagrostis epigeios, Phalaris arundinacea, Rubia tatarica, Althaea officinalis, and Rumex stenophyllus. Therefore, the inclusion of phytocoenosises with domination of the reed in the lower reaches of the Volga River in the alliance Phragmition communis is rather relative. A correct placement of these plant communities in the system of vegetation syntaxa of the arid areas can be made only if it is based on original data obtained from much bigger territory than the Lower Volga Valley. In future geobotanical studies, it is desirable to divide the aggregation of Phragmites australis agg. into smaller species taxa.

Key words: Lower Volga Valley, syntaxonomy, Cocktail method, Phragmites australis agg.

Section: Articles

How to cite

Golub V. B., Bondareva V. V., Sorokin A. N., Nikolaychuk L. F. 2015. Reed (Phragmites australis agg.) dominated plant communities in the Lower Volga Valley // Vegetation of Russia. N 26. P. 26–37.

Received July 7 2014


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