Vegetation succession in front of five retreating glaciers was studied using phytosociological relevés (60) located at different distances between the Little Ice Age (LIA) moraines and the present glacier fronts around Petunia Bay. Approximate dating of succession stages was based on a study of the changing position of glacier fronts in the past approximately 100 years. The described succession corresponds to the uni−directional, non−replacement model of succession. All constituent species, except one, present in the nearby old tundra have colonized the glacier forelands since the end of the LIA. The first species appeared about 5 years after deglaciation. The latest succession stages closely resemble the old tundra.
Vegetation was described in various spatial scales in the area of 37.8 km 2 including distinguishing vegetation units, vegetation mapping, recording phytosociological relevés (53), and completing species lists of vascular plants (86), mosses (124) and lichens (40). Phytosociological relevés were elaborated using ordination methods DCA and CCA. The relevés formed clusters corresponding well to a priori assigned vegetation units. Slope and stoniness significantly influenced the vegetation pattern. Despite the high latitude (nearly 80 ° N), the vegetation is rather rich in species. Non−native species do not expand. The moss Bryum dichotomum is reported for the first time from Svalbard archipelago.
The ability to grow clonally is generally considered important for plants in Arctic regions but analyses of clonal characteristics are lacking for entire plant communities. To fill this gap, we assessed the clonal growth of 78 plant species in the Petuniabukta region, central Spitsbergen (Svalbard), and analyzed the clonal and other life−history traits in the regional flora and plant communities with respect to environmental gradients. We distinguished five categories of clonal growth organs: perennial main roots produced by non− clonal plants, epigeogenous rhizomes, hypogeogenous rhizomes, bulbils, and stolons. Clonal growth differed among communities of the Petuniabukta region: non−clonal plants prevailed in open, early−successional communities, but clonal plants prevailed in wetlands. While the occurrence of plants with epigeogenous rhizomes was unrelated to stoniness or slope, the occurrence of plants with hypogeogenous rhizomes diminished with increasing stoniness of the substratum. Although the overall proportion of clonal plants in the flora of the Petuniabukta region was comparable to that of central Europe, the flora of the Petuniabukta region had fewer types of clonal growth organs, a slower rate of lateral spread, and a different proportion of the two types of rhizomes.