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How alpine heathlands response to the snow cover change on the ski slope? Long-lasting ski slope impact case study from the Hrubý Jeseník Mts (Central Europe)

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The distribution and duration of snow cover are important variables that affect ecosystem processes in the alpine zone. The establishment of ski resorts dramatically change their surrounding environment and ski slopes represent significant anthropogenic impact in the mountains. We assessed the changes in environmental factors, phenology, growth, and reproductive performance of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), a dominant species of alpine heathlands, caused by a “nature-friendly” managed ski slope (i.e., without artificial snow and machine grading) at permanent plots established on the ski slope under operations (inside the ski slope) and on an unaffected control area (outside the ski slope). A lower mean temperature and a shorter time of great temperature fluctuation during snow melting, a longer time span of snow cover, and a higher snow water equivalent were observed inside the ski slope compared to outside it. Due to changed environmental conditions, the beginning of growth was postponed, and a delay in phenological development was observed in the bilberry at the ski slope. However, bilberry ripened both inside and outside the ski slope in a similar period and showed similar cover and even higher flower and fruit densities inside the ski slope compared with natural surroundings. The persistence of bilberry was not deteriorated and its performance was even better inside the ski slope. On the ski slope, managed snow cover can reduce the potential vegetation shifts due to expected impact of the climate warming. That should be taken into account in conservation and management planning.
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Article 3504 [13p.], fig.,ref.
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  • Plant Biosystematics and Ecology Research Group, Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Palacky University, Slechtitelu 27, 78371 Olomouc, Czech Republic
  • Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, Palacky University, Slechtitelu 27, 78371 Olomouc, Czech Republic
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