Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 461–481

Management mitigates the impact of urbanization on meadow vegetation


    • Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of Helsinki
  • Sonja Forss
    • Finnish Environment InstituteNatural Environment Centre/Biodiversity
  • Stephen Venn
    • Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Helsinki

DOI: 10.1007/s11252-010-0129-4

Cite this article as:
Manninen, S., Forss, S. & Venn, S. Urban Ecosyst (2010) 13: 461. doi:10.1007/s11252-010-0129-4


Urban regions often contain remnants of ecologically valuable habitats. Whilst meadow habitats have been recognized as ecologically important and much studied, little attention has been given to meadow assemblages of urban locations. We studied the effects of meadow type, urbanization level, and management on vascular plant species richness, field layer diversity and soil chemistry in 18 grassland sites in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (60°E, 25°N), on the southern coast of Finland during the summer of 2007. We recorded a total of 252 species, though the average number of species per m2 was only 12.6. The negative effects of urbanization on forbs seemed to result in particular from increased soil nitrate (NO3- -N) concentration. The highest NO3- -N and Fe concentrations and ratios of total inorganic nitrogen (Ntot) to phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), were recorded from the soils of urban rocky meadows. Management by mowing decreased soil NO3- -N and Fe concentrations, ratios of Ntot:P and Ntot:K, and increased species richness and diversity. Elevated NOx deposition is considered as a major driver of urbanization effects on vegetation, though changes in soil pH and metal concentrations, such as zinc (Zn), may also negatively affect the frequency of both forbs and grasses. This study shows that regular management by mowing and removal of hay mitigates these effects. We also recommend increasing the provision of dry meadows and maintaining more areas of supplementary semi-natural grassland habitats in urban green space as concrete measures for the conservation of dry meadow assemblages and urban biodiversity.


BiodiversityHeavy metalsMowingNitrogen depositionSemi-natural grasslandUrban ecology

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