Recovery from experimental disturbance in alpine vegetation communities in central Norway
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Human activity has increased in alpine environments during the last decades and is expected to continue to increase. Alpine habitats are highly sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance, such as trampling or motorized transportation, which often cause severe damage. Dispersal and growth rates are low due to short growing seasons, making recovery from severe disturbance a slow process. Therefore, increased knowledge about recovery from severe disturbance is needed to be able to reduce deleterious impacts from interventions in alpine habitats. In the present study, vascular plant recovery from nine-year-old experimental severe disturbance (removal of aboveground biomass) in central Norway was investigated. Three alpine habitat types (leesides, ridges and late melting snow beds) in two different sites with contrasting climate (oceanic and continental) was included in the study. Three measures of recovery were used, species richness, ground cover and functional group abundance. I found that recovery differed between the habitats and sites, emphasising the importance of site specific knowledge when planning management actions. Species richness was similar between treatments but that the compositions differed. Recovery was highest in leesides and late melting snow beds continental site, but in the oceanic site the habitat with highest recovery ridges. The abundance of forbs and graminoids had similar abundance between treatments while woody species had lower abundance in disturbed plots. Based on these results, deleterious disturbance needs to be avoided in areas of low species richness due to low recovery rates.