Syntaxonomy and biogeography of dry grasslands on calcareous substrates in the central and southern Balkans

Vlado Matevski, Andraž Čarni, Renata Ćušterevska, Mitko Kostadinovski, Ladislav Mucina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Questions: Which major syntaxa of dry grasslands supported by carbonate bedrock occur in the central and southern Balkans? What is their position along major ecological gradients and in the context of phytogeographic patterns of the region?. Location: Central and southern Balkans, including western Bulgaria, northern Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia (FYROM) and Serbia. Methods: We compiled a matrix of 660 relevés of dry grasslands over lime-rich bedrock, previously classified in the Festuco-Brometea. We applied clustering techniques to classify separately synoptic and relevé data, and applied NMDS with passive projection of indicator values, climatic data and biogeographic geo-elements onto ordination diagrams to assist interpretation of the syntaxonomic patterns. We constructed elevation distribution profiles for alliances and classes of grasslands of several grassland classes from a broader study area to elucidate the relationship of the elevational sorting of the syntaxa in relation to latitude. Results: The analysis revealed six major vegetation types, classified into four orders: (1) Stipo pulcherrimae-Festucetalia pallentis, incl. (sub)montane rocky steppic grasslands of the Saturejion montanae of central Balkans, and the Koelerio-Festucion dalmaticae – submontane rocky grasslands of southern Serbia and Kosovo; (2) Astragalo onobrychidis-Potentilletalia represented by the Saturejo-Thymion (low-elevation steppic grasslands of southern Balkans); (3) Festucetalia valesiacae represented by grasslands on deep soil and low elevation of northern Greece, and finally (4) high-elevation rocky grasslands of southern Balkans, classified as a new alliance – Diantho haematocalycis-Festucion hirtovaginatae, that might belong to a new, yet undescribed, syntaxonomic order. Ordination suggests that the major differentiation of the high-rank syntaxa follows north–south geographic and low–high elevation gradients. Conclusions: Because of the transitional biogeographic position of the studied region, as well as considerable large elevation span across latitudes, the diversity of vegetation types is high. The indication a putative new dry grassland order, the mid-high altitudes of the southern Balkans points to a need to re-assess the Balkan vegetation occupying the community niche between the low-elevation dry grasslands (Festuco-Brometea) and those typical of high elevations (Elyno-Seslerietea and Daphno-Festucetea), seeking parallels to patterns described from the western Alps, Pyrenees, and Apennines. This syntaxonomic unit is poised to expand the concept of the Festuco hystricis-Ononidetea striatae to the Balkans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-513
Number of pages26
JournalApplied Vegetation Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


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