23 Jan 2023
23 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Primary succession and its driving variables – a holistic approach applied in three proglacial areas in the upper Martell Valley (Eastern Italian Alps)

Katharina Ramskogler1,2,, Bettina Knoflach3,, Bernhard Elsner4, Brigitta Erschbamer5, Florian Haas6, Tobias Heckmann6, Florentin Hofmeister7, Livia Piermattei8, Camillo Ressl9, Svenja Trautmann3, Michael H. Wimmer10, Clemens Geitner3, Johann Stötter3, and Erich Tasser1 Katharina Ramskogler et al.
  • 1Institute for Alpine Environment, Eurac Research, Bozen/Bolzano, 39100, Italy
  • 2Department of Botany, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 4Kompass-Karten GmbH, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 5General-Feuerstein -Str. 24, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
  • 6Physical Geography, Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Eichstätt, 85072, Germany
  • 7Chair of Hydrology and River Bassin Management, Technical University of Munich, Munich, 80333, Germany
  • 8Remote sensing Group, Research Unit Land Change Science, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, 8903, Switzerland
  • 9Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, TU Wien, Vienna, 1050, Austria
  • 10Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying (BEV), Vienna, 1020, Austria
  • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Climate change and the associated glacier retreat lead to considerable enlargement and alterations of the proglacial systems. The colonisation of plants in this ecosystem was found to be highly depending on terrain age, initial site conditions and geomorphic disturbances. Although the explanatory variables are generally well understood, there is little knowledge on their collinearities and resulting influence on proglacial primary succession. To develop a holistic understanding of vegetation development, a more interdisciplinary approach was adopted. In the proglacial area of Fürkele-, Zufall-, and Langenferner (Martell Valley/Eastern Italian Alps), totally 65 plots of 5 × 2 m were installed to perform the vegetation analysis on vegetation cover, species number, and species composition. For each of those, 30 potential explanatory variables were collected, selected through an extensive literature review. To analyse and further avoid multicollinearities, 26 of the explanatory variables were clustered via Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to five components. Subsequently, generalised additive models (GAM) were used to analyse the potential explanatory factors of primary succession. The results showed that primary succession patterns were highly related to the first component (‘elevation and time’), the second component (‘solar radiation’), and the third component (‘south-eastness’) as well as snow free freeze-thaw days, and landforms. In summary, the analysis of all explanatory variables together provides an overview of the most important influencing variables and their interactions, and thus a basis for the debate on future vegetation development in a changing climate.

Katharina Ramskogler et al.

Status: open (until 06 Mar 2023)

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  • CC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-248', Danilo Godone, 25 Jan 2023 reply

Katharina Ramskogler et al.

Katharina Ramskogler et al.


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Short summary
To concretise the complex effects of driving forces on the evolution of proglacial primary succession, 26 from literature known explanatory variables assigned to five spheres were analysed via Principal Component Analysis and Generalised Additive Models. The central results highlight that besides time and elevation related drivers also disturbance modulates vegetation development. The results are valuable for debates on vegetation development in a warming climate.