"Working Concept for the floristical and faunistical Enrichment of species-poor Floodplain-Meadows".
Project Period: 2006 - 2009
Keywords: Flood plain meadows, Litter transfer, Nature conservation, Restoration, Seed Bank
Questions: Is the transfer of plant material a feasible measure for the enrichment of species-poor alluvial grassland? Which is the proper degree of grass sward disturbance to enhance germination and establishment of plant material species? To what degree is the overall effect of different disturbance regimes on establishment success affected by abiotic and biotic site conditions?
Location: Northern Upper Rhine valley, south-western Germany.
Methods: Seed-containing plant material was applied on 20 sites totalling about three hectares in species-poor meadows. We tested two measures of sward disturbance, i.e. rotovation, ploughing before the application of plant material vs. a control, i.e. no disturbance but application of plant material. We followed vegetation development for three years.
Results: Three years after the application of plant material 101 plant material species were successfully re-established on the restoration sites, including 28 Red List species. In contrast to our expectations, establishment was equally well at rotovated and ploughed plots, still both harboured higher numbers and abundances of plant material species than the control plots. In contrast, the cover of resident grassland species differed significantly between ploughed plots (lowest cover), rotovated plots (intermediate cover) and control plots (highest cover) in the last two years of vegetation recording. Co-occurring grasses had a high negative impact on establishment success. While establishment seemed to be hampered by elevated phosphorus contents in the soil, potassium and total nitrogen showed no negative effect.
Conclusions: The transfer of plant material is an effective measure to enhance plant biodiversity in species-poor grasslands. We showed that an appropriate intensity of sward disturbance is crucial for species to re-establish. We recommend ploughing as the more promising disturbance measure since suppression of the resident grassland vegetation seems more persistent. Furthermore, to reduce seed loss and seedling damage during early establishment we advise mulching instead of mowing the restoration sites during the first year after plant material application.
Funding: Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU)
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