Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 547–567

Changes over three decades in the floristic composition of nutrient-poor grasslands in the Swiss Alps

  • Markus Peter
  • Andreas Gigon
  • Peter J. Edwards
  • Andreas Lüscher
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10531-008-9521-2

Cite this article as:
Peter, M., Gigon, A., Edwards, P.J. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2009) 18: 547. doi:10.1007/s10531-008-9521-2

Abstract

To investigate recent changes in the floristic composition and nature conservation value of nutrient-poor, semi-natural grasslands of the Swiss Alps, we resurveyed 151 phytosociological relevés in four regions, originally recorded between 1975 and 1985. In the original surveys, the mean number of plant species per plot (25–100 m2) ranged from 47.1 to 58.1 according to region. The flora included a total of 18 species that are protected in Switzerland and a high proportion of habitat specialists of nutrient-poor grasslands (NPG-species). In the second survey, conducted between 2002 and 2004, both mean species number per plot (−3.2 to +11.4) and species evenness (−0.05 to +0.07) were higher in most regions. However, the data revealed clear shifts in community composition, with a higher proportion of nutrient-demanding species (mean nutrient indicator value increased by +0.07 to +0.24 units) and a lower proportion per plot of NPG-species (−3.6 to −11.6%). These changes were greatest in pastures, and in meadows converted to sheep pastures, while the NPG-species were maintained in unfertilized meadows that were managed as ecological compensation areas. To prevent continuing decline in the conservation value of these grasslands, it is important to support low-intensity management, especially mowing, and to prevent further eutrophication.

Keywords

Biodiversity Conservation management Conservation value Ecological compensation area Habitat specialists Land-use change Vegetation change 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus Peter
    • 1
  • Andreas Gigon
    • 2
  • Peter J. Edwards
    • 2
  • Andreas Lüscher
    • 1
  1. 1.Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ARTZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Integrative Biology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETHZurichSwitzerland

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