Environmental factors and vegetation composition, Lefka Ori Massif, Crete, S. Aegean
Vogiatzakis, I. N., Griffiths, G. H. and Mannion, A. M. (2003) Environmental factors and vegetation composition, Lefka Ori Massif, Crete, S. Aegean. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 12 (2). pp. 131-146. ISSN 0960-7447
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Aim The aim of this study was to explore the environmental factors that determine the spatial distribution of oro-mediterranean and alti-mediterranean plant communities in Crete. Location The paper provides a quantitative analysis of vegetation-environment relationships for two study areas within the Lefka Ori massif Crete, a proposed Natura 2000 site. Methods Eleven environmental variables were recorded: altitude, slope, aspect, percentage of bare rock, percentage of unvegetated ground, soil depth, pH, organic matter content and percentages of sand, silt and clay content. Classification of the vegetation was based on twinspan, while detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) and canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) were used to identify environmental gradients linked to community distribution. Results One hundred and twenty-five species were recorded from 120 plots located within the two study areas. Forty-seven of the recorded species are endemic, belonging to 35 families. Hemicryptophytes and chamaephytes were the most frequent, suggesting a typical oro-mediterranean life form spectrum. The samples were classified into five main community types and one transitional. The main gradients, identified by CCA, were altitude and surface cover type in the North-west site, while in the Central site the gradients were soil formation-development and surface cover type. Main conclusions The use of classification in combination with ordination techniques resulted in a good discrimination between plant communities and a greater understanding of controlling environmental factors. The methodology adopted can be employed for improving baseline information on plant community ecology and distribution in Mediterranean mountain zones.