, Volume 189, Issue 1, pp 31-48
Date: 17 Oct 2006

Establishment and persistence of target species in newly created calcareous grasslands on former arable fields

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Abstract

The effects of different restoration measures and management variants on the vegetation development of newly created calcareous grasslands were studied in southern Germany from 1993 to 2002. In 1993, fresh seed-containing hay from a nature reserve with ancient calcareous grasslands was transferred onto ex-arable fields with and without topsoil removal. Nine years after start of the restoration, the standing crop was lower and the cover of bare soil was higher on topsoil-removal sites than on sites without soil removal. Topsoil removal had a positive effect on the proportion of target species (class Festuco-Brometea), because the number and cover of productive meadow species (class Molinio-Arrhenatheretea) were reduced. Persistence of hay-transfer species and the number of newly colonizing target species were highest on topsoil-removal sites. On plots with and without soil removal, species richness and the number of target species increased quickly after hay transfer and were always higher on hay-transfer plots than on plots that had not received hay in 1993. In 2002, differences induced by hay transfer were still much more pronounced than differences between management regimes. Management by mowing, however, led to higher species richness, a greater number of target species and a lower number of ruderals in comparison to no management on restoration fields without soil removal. A detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) indicated that vegetation composition of the hay-transfer plots of the restoration fields still differed from the vegetation of ancient grasslands in the nature reserve. Vegetation of an ex-arable field in the nature reserve (last ploughed in 1959) showed an intermediate successional stage. In general our results indicate that the transfer of autochthonous hay is an efficient method for the restoration of species-rich vegetation, which allows not only quick establishment but also long-term persistence of target species.