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      Editorial

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      Nature Conservation

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The present Special Issue entitled “Italian Long-Term Ecological Research for understanding ecosystem diversity and functioning. Case studies from aquatic, terrestrial and transitional domains” is the first published collection of studies performed at LTER-Italy sites which address the diversity and dynamics of ecosystems in different domains in responses to natural and anthropogenic forcing.

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          Most cited references 20

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          Time series and beyond: multifaceted plankton research at a marine Mediterranean LTER site

          Plankton are a pivotal component of the diversity and functioning of coastal marine ecosystems. A long time-series of observations is the best tool to trace their patterns and variability over multiple scales, ultimately providing a sound foundation for assessing, modelling and predicting the effects of anthropogenic and natural environmental changes on pelagic communities. At the same time, a long time-series constitutes a formidable asset for different kinds of research on specific questions that emerge from the observations, whereby the results of these complementary studies provide precious interpretative tools that augment the informative value of the data collected. In this paper, we review more than 140 studies that have been developed around a Mediterranean plankton time series gathered in the Gulf of Naples at the station LTER-MC since 1984. These studies have addressed different topics concerning marine plankton, which have included: i) seasonal patterns and trends; ii) taxonomic diversity, with a focus on key or harmful algal species and the discovery of many new taxa; iii) molecular diversity of selected species, groups of species or the whole planktonic community; iv) life cycles of several phyto- and zooplankton species; and v) interactions among species through trophic relationships, parasites and viruses. Overall, the products of this research demonstrate the great value of time series besides the record of fluctuations and trends, and highlight their primary role in the development of the scientific knowledge of plankton much beyond the local scale.
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            Plant diversity changes in a nature reserve: a probabilistic sampling method for quantitative assessments

            Species pool conservation is critical for the stability of ecosystem processes. However, climate and land use changes will likely affect biodiversity, and managers of protected areas are under increasing pressure to monitor native species diversity changes by approaches that are scientifically sound and comparable over time. Here we describe a plant diversity monitoring system in use since 2002 in the “Montagna di Torricchio” Nature Reserve (LTER_EU_IT_033), a Central Apennines representative area of 317 ha, most of which is under strict protection. The aim of this paper was to assess changes in plant species richness over time and to deduce the patterns of species assemblage. The monitoring system was based on a probabilistic sampling design representative of the different physiognomic vegetation types occurring in the Reserve. A total of 34 plots (10×10m) were sampled in 2002, 2003 and 2015, and their species presence/absence and relative coverage were estimated. Repeated measure ANOVA was used to test for plot-level and ecosystem-based changes in species richness along the study period. Temporal nestedness and temporal turnover metrics were used to assess patterns of species’ compositional changes. The results showed significantly different levels of species richness depending on the year, with the lowest value in 2003, probably linked to extreme drought events. Forest systems were comparatively stable, demonstrating the capacity to buffer interannual climate variability. Regarding compositional changes along the entire period (2002–2015), we found random patterns of both temporal nestedness and turnover, indicating stability in species composition. However, we also showed the contemporary occurrence of species loss and species replacement processes, considering the dry year 2003, a finding which should be further explored through fine-scale studies to unravel mechanisms of community assembly under drought. The use of a probabilistic sampling design representative of the different physiognomic vegetation types proved to be advantageous in monitoring the Nature Reserve vegetation and collecting reliable quantitative information. This data, in turn, provides the basis for improvements in management practices and proposed adaptation measures.
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              Thirty years of ecological research at the Gran Sasso d’Italia LTER site: climate change in action

              Since 1986, vegetation monitoring of alpine plant communities has been performed at the Gran Sasso d’Italia LTER site (https://deims.org/c0738b00-854c-418f-8d4f-69b03486e9fd) in the Central Apennines, through phytosociological relevés and abundance and coverage estimation of the vascular flora at fine scale. The monitoring activities for abiotic parameters regard air and soil temperatures, rainfall, snowfall and snow cover persistence. A comparative analysis of changes in species composition, life forms, life strategies and morpho-functional types allowed recognition of dynamical processes (fluctuation and degeneration) and an increase in stress- and drought-tolerant and ruderal species, probably linked to a general process of climate change. A trend of variation forced by increasing drought was recorded in high-mountain plant communities, normally within a dynamic fluctuation process. There has been a 50–80% change in species composition with respect to the total number of species observed over the years. Whereas the total number of species has increased in all communities, in high-mountain mesic grassland 20% of sensitive species have completely disappeared. Early signs of a degeneration process were already discernible after seven years: such signs are more evident in snow-dependent communities, with a quantitative increase in more thermophilic and drought-tolerant species and a parallel decrease in more mesic, cryophilic and competitive species. In particular, the following phenomena have been recorded in high-mountain mesic grassland, in agreement with predicted or observed phenomena in other Alpine or Arctic areas: (a) coverage increase (or appearance) of ruderal and stress- and drought-tolerant species; (b) coverage decrease (or disappearance) of cryophilic, mesic and competitive species. These short-term changes could lead, in the medium- or long-term, to a disgregation process affecting the high elevation plant communities of the Apennines (including the local extinction of most of the cold-adapted species), due to their very low resilience. The phenomena described may be linked to the observed climate change which occurred during the last century (in particular in the last 50 years) in the Apennines, consisting mainly, in the mountains, of a strong reduction in the duration of snow-cover and an increase in mean and minimum annual temperatures.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Conservation
                NC
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-3301
                1314-6947
                May 03 2019
                May 03 2019
                : 34
                : 1-8
                Article
                10.3897/natureconservation.34.35517
                © 2019

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