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Festuca paniculata meadows in Ticino (Switzerland) and their Alpine environment
Festuca paniculata (L.) Schinz & Thellung locally dominates montane and subalpine meadows of the Alps and other mountains of southern Europe. Vegetation releves were carried out in Switzerland and northern Italy to study the site conditions under which Festuca paniculata meadows occur in this part of the Alps, their species composition and phytosociological status, and their relationship to Festuca paniculata meadows described previously from the French Alps (Centaureo-Festucetum spadiceae) and Austrian Alps (Hypochaerido uniflorae-Festucetum paniculatae). The Swiss meadows were found to have a similar ecology to those in France and Austria. They occur mostly between 1600 and 2100 m a.s.l on steep slopes with southern aspect, generally on crystalline rocks, but sometimes on calcareous rocks if soils have been decalcified. The species composition of the Swiss meadows is closer to the Austrian than to the French communities, and we attribute them to the association Hypochaerido uniflorae-Festucetum paniculatae with the new subassociation polygaletosum chamaebuxi. Climate is probably the main factor separating vegetation units in the Alps: the Centaureo-Festucetum spadiceae occurs where summers are dry, whereas the Hypochaerido uniflorae-Festucetum paniculatae occurs where rainfall is not a limiting factor in summer.
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