Original paper

The orophilous cushion-like vegetation of the Sila Massif (S Italy)

Brullo, S.; Gangale, C.; Uzunov, D.

Abstract

The orophilous dwarf shrub vegetation dominated by pulvinate (often thorny) chamaephytes occurring in the Sila Massif (S Italy) is investigated. This vegetation is localized in the mountain belt between 1100 and 1900 m of altitude, and is characterized by numerous endemics exclusive of this territory or circumscribed to S Italy and Sicily. Basing on multivariate analysis, four groups of relevés can be distinguished, corresponding to four plant communities well differentiated from the floristic, ecological and structural point of view. They are proposed as new associations (Astragaletum calabrici, Plantagini serpentinae-Chamaecytisetum spinescentis, Festuco microphyllae-Genistetum silanae, Armerio-Potentilletum calabrae potentilletosum and seselietosum peucedanoidis), included in a new alliance Koelerio-Astragalion calabrici. These communities show close floristic relations with the orophilous shrubby vegetation of Sicily belonging to the class Rumici-Astragaletea siculi (= Cerastio-Carlinetea nebrodensis), while the hypothesis claimed by other authors to refer them to the basiphilous class FestucoBrometea is not acceptable, since there are neither floristic nor ecological similarities. In particular, the Sila communities are closer to those ones of the Aspromonte Massif and have been grouped in the order Anthemidetalia calabricae, endemic of the Calabrian Apennine.