Biogeographic variability of coastal perennial grasslands at the European scale

S. Del Vecchio*, E. Fantinato, J.A.M. Janssen, F. Bioret, A. Acosta, I. Prisco, R. Tzonev, C. Marcenò, J. Rodwell, G. Buffa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Question: Coastal environments have often been described as azonal. While this characteristic is clear for the foredune system, it seems less evident for more inland fixed dunes, which host habitats of major conservation concern, whose features seem to be more related to local climatic conditions. We hypothesized that, unlike other coastal habitats, dune perennial grasslands differ floristically and structurally across their European range and that patterns of variation are linked to the corresponding climate. Location: European coasts (Atlantic Ocean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Black Sea). Methods: We used a large data set of phytosociological relevés, representative of coastal grasslands throughout their European range. The role of climatic variables (temperature, precipitation and continentality) in determining the variability in species composition and vegetation structure (by means of life forms) was investigated through CCA, DCA and GLM. The degree of concentration of species occurrences within groups was calculated through the Phi coefficient. Results: Through multivariate analyses we identified seven major types of coastal grassland, corresponding to different geographic areas. The groups significantly differed in their climatic envelope, as well as in their species composition and community structure. Conclusion: Our results confirm the hypothesis that coastal dune perennial grasslands are subjected to local climate, which exerts significant effects on both floristic composition and community structure. As a consequence, coastal grasslands are particularly prone to the effect of possible climate change, which may alter species composition and distribution, and lead to shifts in the distribution of native plant communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-321
JournalApplied Vegetation Science
Issue number2
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Azonal habitats
  • Climatic gradient
  • Dune habitats
  • Endemism
  • Habitat classification
  • Meta-analysis
  • Phytosociological data
  • Vegetation gradient
  • Vegetation structure

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