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Plant Sociology 55 (1) 2018

pag. 3-20: Phytosociology and life syndromes of bryophyte communities from Sicilian caves, a clear example of relationship between bryophytes and environment

M. Puglisi1, H. Kürschner2 & M. Privitera1

1Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, University of Catania, v. A. Longo 19, I-95125 Catania, Italy.

2Free University of Berlin, Institute of Biology, Systematic Botany and Plant Geography, Altensteinstraße 6, D-14195 Berlin, Germany.

doi: 10.7338/pls2018551/01

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A phytosociological study on the bryophytes found in many lava and karst caves of Sicily was carried out. The surveyed communities, recognized at the entrance, in the liminar and subliminar zones of the caves, include the Rhabdoweisietum fugacis, Pohlietum crudae subass. timmietosum bavaricae, Bartramietum ithyphyllae, Pohlio crudae-Amphidietum mougeotii and Pohlio annotinae-Brachythecietum velutini (class Cladonio digitatae-Lepidozietea reptantis), Rhynchostegielletum algirianae (class Ctenidietea mollusci), Scorpiurietum circinati (class Pleurochaeto squarrosae-Abietinelletea abietinae), Riccio glaucae-Anthocerotetum crispuli and Plagiochasmo rupestris-Targionietum hypophyllae (class Barbuletea unguiculatae), found in the lava caves. By contrast, the Selaginello denticulatae-Timmielletum barbuloidis (class Pleurochaeto squarrosae-Abietinelletea abietinae), Weissietum tortilis (class Barbuletea unguiculatae), Eucladio verticillati-Adiantetum capilli-veneris and Thamnobryo alopecuri-Phyllitidetum scolopendrii (class Adiantetea capilli-veneris), were found in the karst caves. Among these, Pohlio crudae-Amphidietum mougeotii and Rhynchostegielletum algirianae are the only associations with a troglophile character, which survive in the semi-darkness of the subliminar zone. The associations were examined from a synecological, synhierarchical and chorological point of view. A life form and life strategy analysis of all communities reflect the response of plant functional types towards the environmental demands. Most communities are characterized by only few but specific life syndromes, which can be seen as an ecological expression of the growing sites, the diverse characters and requirements of the various species and populations. Especially the prevailing life forms perfectly reflect the light conditions, one of the key stone factors of plants of cave communities.


bryophyte vegetation, caves, ecology, life forms, life strategies, Sicily