, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 957-969
Date: 17 Aug 2005

Recreating Grasslands in Swedish Rural Landscapes – Effects of Seed Sowing and Management History

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Abstract

Recent loss of plant species richness in Swedish semi-natural grasslands has led to an increase in grassland recreation and restoration. To increase the establishment of declining species favoured by grazing and to re-establish original species richness, seed sowing has been discussed as a conservation tool. In this study, I examined to what extent seed sowing in former arable fields increases species richness and generates a species composition typical of semi-natural grasslands. Six grassland species favoured by grazing (target species) and six generalist species favoured by ceased grazing, were studied in a seed-addition experiment. Four different seed densities were used on four different grassland categories, two grazed former arable fields, one continuously grazed grassland and one abandoned grassland. Target and generalist species emerged in all grassland categories, but seedling emergence was higher in the grazed than in the abandoned grassland. Target species had higher emergence in the two grasslands with the longest grazing continuity. Seedling emergence and frequency of established plants of each target species were positively associated. The largest fraction of seeds germinated at an intermediate sowing density, 20–50 seeds/dm2, suggesting that aggregation of seeds positively affects emergence up to a certain threshold. In conclusion, artificial seed sowing may induce the recreation of typical grassland communities on former arable fields, which may be an important contribution to increase the total grassland area and species richness in the landscape.