Patterns and processes in alpine vegetation
Dietz, Dietz, Edwards & Wildi

In alpine environments vegetation patterns (species composition, relative dominance of the species and vegetation structure) often change dramatically, even over short distances. This pronounced heterogeneity results from steep gradients in environmental conditions, e.g. small-scale variability in the topography. In addition, environmental conditions may vary widely over time due to frequent disturbance events. In some areas, particularly where highly variable abiotic conditions interact with frequent disturbance events on a small scale, there are pronounced spatio-temporal dynamics in the alpine vegetation. Other areas show remarkably stable communities with very long-lived dominants.

The aim of this section is to demonstrate how vegetation develops in primary and secondary succession in the alpine environment and, particularly, under what circumstances small-scale or temporary mosaics in vegetation pattern develop as opposed to more homogeneous or long-lived communities. For an understanding of the mechanisms underlying these patterns we will consider biotic factors such as turnover, competition, facilitation, regeneration and dispersal as well as refer to and synthesize the effects of abiotic factors presented in other modules.

  Start Vegetation Abiotic factors Life history strategy Succession Biotic interactions Conclusions Review test Learning objectives
Navigation tree


upback to topup

29 August 2011
© ALPECOLe 2002-2007