, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 17–27 | Cite as

Vertical canopy structure of Dutch chalk grasslands in relation to their management

  • J. Mitchley
  • J. H. Willems


Analysis of leaf canopy overtopping relationships was carried out using a non-destructive point quadrat method followed by a destructive stratified harvest of the above-ground phytomass in Dutch chalk grasslands with different management: summer sheep grazing and annual autumn mowing. The two methods of analysis are compared: e.g. relative leaf overtopping can be recorded by the point quadrat method but it is obscured in vertical vegetation profiles based on stratified phytomass distribution. However the stratified harvest method describes the relationship between canopy phytomass and light microclimate, recorded by measuring Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at different heights in the vegetation. Plant growth form during peak standing crop is of greater significance than Raunkiaerian life form in determining structure of chalk grassland vegetation. In annually mown grasslands, the tall graminoid growth form, shown by Brachypodium pinnatum, reduces PAR in the lower canopy and suppresses most other growth forms except those which can reach the higher canopy levels, e.g. clumped herbs such as Origanum vulgare. In contrast, grazing can result in a reduction of dominance from the tall graminoids and reduction of the abundance of taller, grazing-sensitive herbs, e.g. clumped and climbing herbs such as Origanum and Lathyrus pratensis, and an increase in grazing-tolerant species, e.g. smaller rosette herb growth forms, e.g. Leontodon hispidus and shorter rhizomatous or stoloniferous graminoids, e.g. Carex flacca and Briza media. Changes in both the overtopping hierarchy at the peak of the growing season and the intensity of overtopping in the course of a growing season are of conclusive importance in determining the relative abundance of species in the vegetation.

Key words

Canopy structure Grazing Growth forms Leaf overtopping Mowing PAR profiles Phytomass Point quadrat Stratification 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Mitchley
    • 1
  • J. H. Willems
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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