Based on a stratified random sample of 93 vegetation plots and coincident measurements of ecological conditions in mountain forests of the Bavarian Alps, the degree to which species composition and Ellenberg indicator values derived thereof were related to measured environmental variables was assessed for vascular understorey plants and epigeic bryophytes. According to Mantel tests vascular composition contained ca. 30% more ecological information than bryophyte composition. When expressed as average Ellenberg or Düll values, vascular plant-based values reflected 60% more of measured variables than bryophyte-based values. The differences remained after rarefaction of the vascular matrix to the gamma diversity of bryophytes, showing that indication is not a function of indicator richness. Analysing vascular plants and bryophytes combined yielded very similar, or even slightly less stringent relationships with the environment than using vascular plants only.
Bivariate relationships of indicator values with corresponding ecological measurements confirmed the specific potential of the values to estimate ecological factors from both plant groups, but vascular plants performed better for all factors. Bryophyte indication was particularly poor for light, temperature and base saturation. Bryophyte-based indicator values did not significantly predict the residuals of measured ecological variables against vascular plant-based Ellenberg values.
For the study region, it is concluded that indicator values of vascular forest understorey should be used without consideration of Düll's indicator values for epigeic bryopyhtes. There appears to be potential to improve bioindication by recalibrating indicator values of epigeic bryophytes based on ecological measurements and vascular plant indicator values.