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Old-fields (44, aged 1–15 years, from Czech Republic and Hungary) were sorted according to their soil moisture and nitrogen content into wet, mesic or dry, and nutrient poor, moderate or nutrient rich categories, resulting in 8 combinations (dry and nutrient rich fields were not present). The vegetation of old fields was sampled using phytosociological relevès. The changes in species cover data and importance of species trait categories were analysed in relation to three environmental factors, i.e., time since abandonment, soil moisture and total soil nitrogen using ordination, generalized linear models (GLM) and regression tree methods. Successional seres in the first 15 years after field abandonment were divergent. Species diversity significantly decreased with increasing site moisture and was highest in sites with moderate nitrogen content; while the relationship with time was not significant. Raunkiaer life forms and life strategies (sensu Grime) were generally the most predictive species traits considering species occurrence during the course of succession, the type of dispersal considering the different moisture status, and the ability to lateral spread considering the nutrient status of the old-fields. Most trends appeared in both parametric GLM and non-parametric regression tree analyses, several only in GLM. We consider regression trees to be a more convenient tool than GLM in cases such as ours with a rather small number of samples and robust character of data. Another advantage is that a hierarchy of species traits is taken into account. Thus, the occurrence of a species along an environmental gradient can be predicted if the species possesses a certain combination of traits.

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