Do Sandy Grasslands along the Danube in the Carpathian Basin Preserve the Memory of Forest-Steppes?
Research highlights: In the present survey we examined the sandy grasslands appearing in the steppe-forest-steppe vegetation in the central part of the Carpathian Basin along the Danube. Background and objectives: We aimed to answer the following questions: Is it possible to build a picture of the past form of the vegetation through the examination of these vegetation units based on dominant grass taxa? Is Festuca wagneri an element of open grasslands or steppes? According to our hypothesis,
... se surveys can help reveal the original or secondary woody, shrubby patches through clarifying dominant taxa. Materials and Methods: We studied the grasslands in terms of coenology, putting great emphasis on the dominant Festuca taxa. Based on our preliminary surveys and literature, three vegetation types can be separated based on one single dominant Festuca taxon in each. The survey was conducted in four different locations in the Carpathian Basin. The cover of dominant grass species was used as an indicator value. The pedological background was also examined. Results: F. vaginata grassland is an open vegetation type based on its coenosystematic composition and ecological values. It grows in very weakly developed calcareous soil with sandy texture, with its lowest and highest organic carbon content ranging from 0.2% to 11.3% (0.2%), and the highest carbonate content (11.3%). Where the grasslands were disturbed, F. pseudovaginata and the recently discovered F. tomanii appeared. These taxa were also found in forest patches. The soil under F. pseudovaginata was more developed, in the surface horizon with higher organic carbon content (1.1%) and lower carbonate content (6.9%). The soil profile under F. wagneri developed the most, as the presence of deep and humus rich soil material from deflation and degradation showed. Conclusions: the dominant Festuca taxa of these vegetation types are good indicators of the changes in the vegetation and their ecological background.