The vegetation of 'snowbeds' in the Monts du Forez (Massif Central, France)
Schaminée, Joop H. J.; Coolen, Caroline; Siebum, Marian B.
In 1985, the vegetation of snowbeds in the subalpine zone of the Monts du Forez was analysed according to the Braun-Blanquet approach. Here, snowbeds are found at the eastern side of the central ridge of the mountain; their altitude varies between 1480 and 1590 m. A comprehensive definition of the concept of snowbed was used, based on three aspects, namely geomorphological, phenological, and phytosociological. The research provided insight in the ecology and distribution pattern of communities in detail. More than eighty relevés were made and classified into two tables, comprising 15 clusters, and reflecting the situation in the field: a "dry heathland" has been distinguished from a "wet peatland". The distribution of the plant communities was mapped at a scale of 1:250 and 1:125, respectively. The snowbed vegetation of the Monts du Forez is discussed in a European context. In low mountain ranges, the variation of the chionophilous communities is determined by at least four major factors, namely macroclimate (largely determined by geographical situation and altitude), historical factors, soil conditions, and geomorphological features.