Low impact of climate change on species composition of a central European lowland beech forest community
Huwer, Andreas; Wittig, Rüdiger
To date, studies on the effects of climate change on European vegetation have primarily been conducted at northern or altitudinal boundaries of species ranges. The objective of this study was to determine if and in what manner climate change has affected plant associations in the central European lowland. Using a total of 200 relevés collected in 1976, 1983, 1996 and 2008, and relevant climate data from 1970 to 2008, we attempted to identify the effects of recent climate change on herbaceous species composition in a distinct type of beech forest (Oxali-Fagetum) in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany). Both temperature and precipitation in the study area increased over the period under investigation. These climatic changes were accompanied by slight shifts in herbaceous species composition, expressed as a temporal break between the first and last two sampling years within ordination plots generated by nonmetric multidimensional scaling. The observed floristic changes consisted primarily of changes in the relative distribution of species within the community but did not indicate changes in community composition.