Review Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2311-2332

First online:

Grassland restoration on former croplands in Europe: an assessment of applicability of techniques and costs

  • Péter TörökAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, University of Debrecen Email author 
  • , Enikő VidaAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, University of Debrecen
  • , Balázs DeákAffiliated withHortobágyi National Park Directorate
  • , Szabolcs LengyelAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, University of Debrecen
  • , Béla TóthmérészAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, University of Debrecen

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Grasslands used to be vital landscape elements throughout Europe. Nowadays, the area of grasslands is dramatically reduced, especially in industrial countries. Grassland restoration is widely applied to increase the naturalness of the landscape and preserve biodiversity. We reviewed the most frequently used restoration techniques (spontaneous succession, sowing seed mixtures, transfer of plant material, topsoil removal and transfer) and techniques used to improve species richness (planting, grazing and mowing) to recover natural-like grasslands from ex-arable lands. We focus on the usefulness of methods in restoring biodiversity, their practical feasibility and costs. We conclude that the success of each technique depends on the site conditions, history, availability of propagules and/or donor sites, and on the budget and time available for restoration. Spontaneous succession can be an option for restoration when no rapid result is expected, and is likely to lead to the target in areas with high availability of propagules. Sowing low-diversity seed mixtures is recommended when we aim at to create basic grassland vegetation in large areas and/or in a short time. The compilation of high-diversity seed mixtures for large sites is rather difficult and expensive; thus, it may be applied rather on smaller areas. We recommend combining the two kinds of seed sowing methods by sowing low-diversity mixtures in a large area and high-diversity mixtures in small blocks to create species-rich source patches for the spontaneous colonization of nearby areas. When proper local hay sources are available, the restoration with plant material transfer can be a fast and effective method for restoration.


Grazing Hay transfer Mowing Seed sowing Spontaneous succession Topsoil removal Restoration cost