Concept

Alvar

Summary
An alvar is a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil and, as a result, sparse grassland vegetation. Often flooded in the spring, and affected by drought in midsummer, alvars support a distinctive group of prairie-like plants. Most alvars occur either in northern Europe or around the Great Lakes in North America. This stressed habitat supports a community of rare plants and animals, including species more commonly found on prairie grasslands. Lichen and mosses are common species. Trees and bushes are absent or severely stunted. The primary cause of alvars is the shallow exposed bedrock. Flooding and drought, as noted, add to the stress of the site and prevent many species from growing. Disturbance may also play a role. In Europe, grazing is frequent, while in North America, there is some evidence that fire may also prevent encroachment by forest. The habitat also has strong competition gradients, with better competitors
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