Phytocoenotic diversity and dynamics of the communities of association Caricetum gracilis Savich 1926 under the xerophytization of the Desna River floodplain

A. D. Bulokhov, N. N. Panasenko, Yu. A. Semenishchenkov, A. V. Kharin



The paper presents the results of a comparative analysis of the floristic and phytocoenotic diversity within widespread association of acute sedge meadows Caricetum gracilis Savich 1926 in the floodplain of the Desna River (Bryansk and Smolensk regions, Russia).

Available geobotanical data on Desna floodplain, collected in the last 40 years, allowed identifying the main dynamic trends in the syntaxonomical space. Based on 36 relevés made by the authors in 1975–1990 previously (Bulokhov, 2001) 3 subassociations, which communities were prevalent in the Desna valley, were established: Caricetum gracilis typicum, С. g. oenanthetosum aquaticae, С. g. beckmannietosum eruciformis.

As a survey of the Desna floodplain in 2015–2018 showed, both flow decrease and drop in the level of spring flood and groundwater in the XXI century have led to a change in the appearance, floristic composition, and structure of acute sedge meadows. Xerophytization of the floodplain resulted in the disappearance of the С. g. oenanthetosum aquaticae and С. g. beckmannietosum eruciformis communities. Drying of typical habitats of moist acute sedge meadows became the background of the formation of diverse communities of other types in their place.

In the coenoflors of these communities changes occurred at the class level from Phragmito-Magnocaricetea Klika in Klika et Novák 1941 to Molinio-Arrhenatheretea Tx. 1937.

Two groups of communities have been formed. The first group is represented by syntaxa of the alliance Magnocaricion gracilis (class Phragmito-Magnocaricetea): Caricetum gracilis typicum with variant Achillea salicifolia as well as by the communities Lythrum salicaria, Calystegia sepium, Calamagrostis canescens. The share of the alliance characteristic species in their coenofloras is 54–64%, and Carex acuta, as a rule, dominates.

The second group represents the communities of wet meadows (order Molinietalia caeruleae) of the class Molinio-Arrhenatheretea. The alliance Deschampsion cespitosae is established with subass. Poo palustrisAlopecuretum pratensis typicum (with three variants: Veronica longifolia, Hierochloё odorata, Galium physocarpum) and three communities (Cirsium arvense, Lysimachia vulgaris, Stachys palustris) The share of characteristic species of the order in their coenofloras is 58–95%.

All communities and variants form series along the moisture gradient in habitats of acute sedge meadows. Communities Lythrum salicaria, Calystegia sepium, Calamagrostis canescens are distributed in the wettest and richest in mineral nitrogen habitats in the Middle Desna area, in the former long-flooded low-level floodplain. The other ones occur, first of all, in the Upper and Middle Desna areas on a short- and long-flooded floodplain of an average level. These communities are forming on moist and fresh soils.

The variants and communities on the gradients of moisture and the richness of mineral nitrogen of the soil were ordinated using the ecological scales of H. Ellenberg et al. (1992). Serial communities form an ecological-dynamic sere on a humidity gradient, showing the direction of their dynamics.

The same localization of studies carried out both in 1975–1990 and in 2015–2018 identified changes in vascular plant coenoflora of the ass. Caricetum gracilis for this period: from 62 species in 1975–1990 to 143 species in 2015–2018. There are three groups of species, which reflects these changes.

Besides species affine to the class Phragmito-Magnocaricetea, numerous meadow herbs of the class Molinio-Arrhenatheretea appeared: Agrimonia eupatoria, Agrostis tenuis, Bromopsis inermis, Carex praecox, Dactilys glomerata, Dianthus deltoides, Elytrigia repens, Equisetum arvense, Festuca pratensis, Galium mollugo, Geranium pratense, Galium physocarpum, Hieracium umbellatum, Hierochloё odorata, Lathyrus pratensis, Odontites vulgaris, Poa pratensis, Potentilla argentea, Potentilla erecta, Phleum pratense, Vicia cracca.

A complex of ruderal explerent and nitrophilous species with numerous alien ones has been formed: Bidens frondosa, Chamaenerion angustifolium, Cirsium arvense, Echinocystis lobata, Epilobium adenocaulon, E. collinum, E. pseudorubescens, E. tetragonum, Erigeron annuus, E. canadensis, Lactuca serriola, Linaria vulgaris, Senecio jacobaea, Sonchus arvensis. Most of these species are anemoсhores, and their presence in the sedge communities is associated with open site formation due to the soil drying between hummocks, as well as the destruction of sedge tussocks under drying and fire.

Over the past decade invasive species Bidens frondosa, Erigeron annuus subsp. septentrionalis, E. canadensis,and Lactuca serriola have become an ordinary component of the Desna’s river valley flora. Trees and shrubs (Acer negundo, Betula pendula, Frangula alnus, Quercus robur, Rosa majalis, Salix cinerea, S. pentandra, Swida alba) enter into meadow communities because the lack of haymowing.

The following changes in the life form spectrum took place due to the floodplain xerophytization and acute sedge meadow transformation: the proportion of long-rhizome species decreased, while that of rod-root, short-rhizome, and annuals increased; trees and shrubs appeared. Obvious also are changes in the ecobiomorphspectrum: the proportion of mesomorphic species increased, that of hygromophic and mesogygromorphic ones decreased; xero-mesomorphic plants appeared.

Key words: Braun-Blanquet approach, Caricetum gracilis Savich 1926, phytocoenotic diversity, floodplain xerophytization, series, dynamics of vegetation, phytoindication, Desna River

Section: Articles

How to cite

Bulokhov A. D., Panasenko N. N., Semenishchenkov Yu. A., Kharin A. V. 2019. Phytocoenotic diversity and dynamics of the communities of association Caricetum gracilis Savich 1926 under the xerophytization of the Desna River floodplain // Rastitel’nost’ Rossii. 37: 3–28.

Received February 6 2019


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