Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 2563–2580 | Cite as

Post-Soviet recovery of grassland vegetation on abandoned fields in the forest steppe zone of Western Siberia

  • Immo KämpfEmail author
  • Wanja Mathar
  • Igor Kuzmin
  • Norbert Hölzel
  • Kathrin Kiehl
Original Paper


Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 around 45 million hectares of arable land became abandoned across Russia. Our study focused on the recovery potential and conservation value of grassland vegetation on ex-arable land in the Tyumen region of the Western Siberian grain belt. We compared ex-arable grasslands of different successional stages with ancient grasslands as reference for the final stage of succession along a climatic gradient from the pre-taiga to the forest steppe zone. Plant community composition and species richness of ex-arable land clearly developed towards reference sites over time, but even after 24 years of abandonment, the grassland vegetation had not totally recovered. The γ-diversity of vascular plants was slightly higher on ex-arable land than in ancient grasslands but the mean α-diversity was still moderately lower. A significant proportion of the vegetation of ex-arable land still consisted of ruderal and mesic grassland species and the number and cover of meadow-steppe species was significantly lower than in ancient grasslands. Grazing and time since abandonment positively affected the reestablishment of target grassland species, whereas it was negatively affected by the cover of grasses. In contrast to ex-arable land, the conservation value of arable land is only modest. Therefore, future intensification of land use is most likely less harmful if directed to existing arable land. Re-cultivation of ex-arable land and grassland improvement operations such as seeding of competitive grass species are major threats for the biodiversity of secondary grasslands on ex-arable land in the forest steppe zone of Western Siberia.


Old field Species composition Abandoned farmland Meadow steppe Secondary succession Conservation value 



This work was conducted as part of project SASCHA (‘Sustainable land management and adaptation strategies to climate change for the Western Siberian grain belt’). We are grateful for funding by the German Government, Federal Ministry of Education and Research within their Sustainable Land Management funding framework (funding references 01LL0906D, 01LL0906F). We want to thank Johannes Kamp, Andrey Tolstikov and Roman Latyntsev for their support by organizing the entire infrastructure that was needed for our fieldwork. Many thanks to Sergey Tupitcyn, Sergey Sherstobitov, Gerlinde Gromes, Martin Freitag and Cornelia Mesmer for help with the laboratory work and to Rose Keller for improving our English. Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1078_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (29 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 28 kb)


  1. Albert AJ, Kelemen A, Valkó O, Miglecz T, Csecserits A, Redei T, Deák B, Tóthmérész B, Török P (2014) Secondary succession in sandy old-fields: a promising example of spontaneous grassland recovery. Appl Veg Sci 17:214–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Auffret AG (2011) Can seed dispersal by human activity play a useful role for the conservation of European grasslands? Appl Veg Sci 14:291–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bekker RM, Verweij GL, Smith REN, Reine R, Bakker JP, Schneider S (1997) Soil seed banks in European grasslands: does land use affect regeneration perspectives? J Appl Ecol 34:1293–1310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brinkert A, Hölzel N, Sidorova T, Kamp J (2015) Spontaneous steppe restoration on abandoned cropland in Kazakhstan: grazing affects successional pathways. Biodivers Conserv. doi: 10.1007/s10531-015-1020-7 Google Scholar
  5. Brown DG, Johnson KM, Loveland TR, Theobald DM (2005) Rural land-use trends in the conterminous United States, 1950–2000. Ecol Appl 15:1851–1863CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coffin DP, Lauenroth WK, Burke IC (1996) Recovery of vegetation in a semiarid grassland 53 years after disturbance. Ecol Appl 6:538–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Colwell RK, Mao CX, Chang J (2004) Interpolating, extrapolating and comparing incidence-based species accumulation curves. Ecology 85:2717–2727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cousins SAO, Eriksson O (2008) After the hotspots are gone: land use history and grassland plant species diversity in a strongly transformed agricultural landscape. Appl Veg Sci 11:365–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cramer VA, Hobbs RJ, Standish RJ (2008) What’s new about old fields? Land abandonment and ecosystem assembly. Trends Ecol Evol 23:104–112CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Czerepanov SK (1995) Vascular plants of Russia and adjacent countries (within limits of the former USSR). Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. De Caceres M, Legendre P (2009) Associations between species and groups of sites: indices and statistical inference. Ecology 90:3566–3574CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. De Deyn GB, Raaijmakers CE, Zoomer HR, Berg MP, de Ruiter PC, Verhoef HA, Bezemer TM, van der Putten WH (2003) Soil invertebrate fauna enhances grassland succession and diversity. Nature 422:711–713CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Degefie DT, Fleischer E, Klemm O, Soromotin AV, Soromotina OV, Tolstikov AV, Abramov NV (2014) Climate extremes in South Western Siberia: past and future. Stoch Env Res Risk Assess 28:2161–2173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dengler J, Janisova M, Török P, Wellstein C (2014) Biodiversity of Palaearctic grasslands: a synthesis. Agric Ecosyst Environ 182:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Didukh YP (2011) The ecological scales for the species of Ukrainian flora and their use in synphytoindication. Phytosociocentre, KievGoogle Scholar
  16. Dölle M (2008) From arable field to forest: long-term studies on permanent plots. Dissertation, University of GöttingenGoogle Scholar
  17. Dufrêne M, Legendre P (1997) Species assemblages and indicator species: the need for a flexible asymmetrical approach. Ecol Monogr 67:345–366Google Scholar
  18. Dupré C, Diekmann M (2001) Differences in species richness and life-history traits between grazed and abandoned grasslands in southern Sweden. Ecography 24:275–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ejrnaes R, Bruun HH, Graae BJ (2006) Community assembly in experimental grasslands: suitable environment or timely arrival? Ecology 87:1225–1233CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Ejrnaes R, Liira J, Poulsen RS, Nygaard B (2008) When has an abandoned field become a semi-natural grassland or heathland? Environ Manag 42:707–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. European Environment agency (2015) EUNIS, the European Nature Information System. Accessed 27 April 2015
  22. Fox J, Weisberg S (2011) An R companion to applied regression, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  23. Franz H-J (1973) Physische Geographie der Sowjetunion. Hermann Haack, GothaGoogle Scholar
  24. Gibson CWD, Brown VK (1991) The nature and rate of development of calcareous grassland in Southern Britain. Biol Conserv 58:297–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Godfray HCJ, Beddington JR, Crute IR, Haddad L, Lawrence D, Muir JF, Pretty J, Robinson S, Thomas SM, Toulmin C (2010) Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327:812–818CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Gough MW, Marrs RH (1990) A comparison of soil fertility between semi-natural and agricultural plant-communities: implications for the creation of species-rich grassland on abandoned agricultural land. Biol Conserv 51:83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hobbs J, Cramer VA (2007) Old field dynamics: regional and local differences, and lessons for ecology and restoration. In: Hobbs J, Cramer VA (eds) Old fields. Dynamics and restoration of abandoned farmland. Island Press, Washington, D.C., pp 309–318Google Scholar
  28. Hoekstra JM, Boucher TM, Ricketts TH, Roberts C (2005) Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection. Ecol Lett 8:23–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jirová A, Klaudisová A, Prach K (2012) Spontaneous restoration of target vegetation in old-fields in a central European landscape: a repeated analysis after three decades. Appl Veg Sci 15:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kamp J, Urazaliev R, Balmford A, Donald PF, Green RE, Lamb AJ, Phalan B (2015) Agricultural development and the conservation of avian biodiversity on the Eurasian steppes: a comparison of land-sparing and land-sharing approaches. J Appl Ecol 52:1578–1587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kardol P, Bezemer TM, van der Putten WH (2006) Temporal variation in plant-soil feedback controls succession. Ecol Lett 9:1080–1088CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Karlik P, Poschlod P (2009) History or abiotic filter: which is more important in determining the species composition of calcareous grasslands? Preslia 81:321–340Google Scholar
  33. Kiehl K, Pfadenhauer J (2007) Establishment and persistence of target species in newly created calcareous grasslands on former arable fields. Plant Ecol 189:31–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kiehl K, Wagner C (2006) Effect of hay transfer on long-term establishment of vegetation and grasshoppers on former arable fields. Restor Ecol 14:157–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Komarov VL, Bobrov EG, Tzvelev NN, Shetler SG (eds) (2004) Flora of the USSR vol 0–30. Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  36. Korolyuk AY (2014) Plant communities of the class Festuco-Brometea in the Western Siberian plane. Veg Russia 25:45–70 (in Russian) Google Scholar
  37. Kühling I, Broll G, Trautz D (2016) Spatio-temporal analysis of agricultural land-use intensity across the Western Siberian grain belt. Sci Total Environ 544:271–280CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Kurganova I, De Gerenyu VL, Six J, Kuzyakov Y (2014) Carbon cost of collective farming collapse in Russia. Glob Change Biol 20:938–947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Makhanova GS (2005) Characteristics of the flora of fallow lands of the Orenburg Trans-Urals area. Vestnik Orenburgskogo Pedagogicheskogo Universiteta 3:79–82 (in Russian) Google Scholar
  40. Martin LM, Wilsey BJ (2012) Assembly history alters alpha and beta diversity, exotic-native proportions and functioning of restored prairie plant communities. J Appl Ecol 49:1436–1445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mathar W, Kämpf I, Kleinebecker T, Kuzmin I, Tolstikov A, Tupitsin S, Hölzel N (2015) Floristic diversity of meadow steppes in the Western Siberian Plain: effects of abiotic site conditions, management and landscape structure. Biodivers Conserv. doi: 10.1007/s10531-015-1023-4 Google Scholar
  42. Munroe DK, van Berkel DB, Verburg PH, Olson JL (2013) Alternative trajectories of land abandonment: causes, consequences and research challenges. Curr Opin Env Sust 5:471–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Olson DM, Dinerstein E (2002) The Global 200: priority ecoregions for global conservation. Ann Mo Bot Gard 89:199–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Öster M, Ask K, Cousins SAO, Eriksson O (2009) Dispersal and establishment limitation reduces the potential for successful restoration of semi-natural grassland communities on former arable fields. J Appl Ecol 46:1266–1274Google Scholar
  45. Ovcharova NV (2014) To the history of the fallow communities investigation in Altai Krai. News Altai State Univ 1:57–61 (in Russian) Google Scholar
  46. Ovcharova NV, Yamalov SM (2013) Syntaxonomical and ordination analyses in restoration successions of grassland vegetation of the right bank of the river Ob (Altai Territory). Izvestia Samarskogo Nauchnogo Centra 15:388–394 (in Russian) Google Scholar
  47. Pereira HM, Leadley PW, Proenca V, Alkemade R, Scharlemann JPW, Fernandez-Manjarres JF, Araujo MB, Balvanera P, Biggs R, Cheung WWL, Chini L, Cooper HD, Gilman EL, Guenette S, Hurtt GC, Huntington HP, Mace GM, Oberdorff T, Revenga C, Rodrigues P, Scholes RJ, Sumaila UR, Walpole M (2010) Scenarios for global biodiversity in the 21st century. Science 330:1496–1501CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Prach K, Hobbs RJ (2008) Spontaneous succession versus technical reclamation in the restoration of disturbed sites. Restor Ecol 16:363–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Prach K, Pyšek P (1999) How do species dominating in succession differ from others? J Veg Sci 10:383–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Prach K, Bartha S, Joyce CB, Pyšek P, van Diggelen R, Wiegleb G (2001) The role of spontaneous vegetation succession in ecosystem restoration: a perspective. Appl Veg Sci 4:111–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Prach K, Jongepierová I, Řehounková K, Fajmon K (2014) Restoration of grasslands on ex-arable land using regional and commercial seed mixtures and spontaneous succession: successional trajectories and changes in species richness. Agric Ecosyst Environ 182:131–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Prishchepov AV, Radeloff VC, Baumann M, Kuemmerle T, Müller D (2012) Effects of institutional changes on land use: agricultural land abandonment during the transition from state-command to market-driven economies in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Environ Res Lett 7:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Prishchepov AV, Müller D, Dubinin M, Baumann M, Radeloff VC (2013) Determinants of agricultural land abandonment in post-Soviet European Russia. Land Use Policy 30:873–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pywell RF, Bullock JM, Hopkins A, Walker KJ, Sparks TH, Burke MJW, Peel S (2002) Restoration of species-rich grassland on arable land: assessing the limiting processes using a multi-site experiment. J Appl Ecol 39:294–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Queiroz C, Beilin R, Folke C, Lindborg R (2014) Farmland abandonment: threat or opportunity for biodiversity conservation? A global review. Front Ecol Environ 12:288–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. R core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  57. Rebele F (2000) Competition and coexistence of rhizomatous perennial plants along a nutrient gradient. Plant Ecol 147:77–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Reitalu T, Johansson LJ, Sykes MT, Hall K, Prentice HC (2010) History matters: village distances, grazing and grassland species diversity. J Appl Ecol 47:1216–1224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rosstat (2015) Russian Federation: Unified Interdepartmental Statistical Information System. Accessed 10 Aug 2014
  60. Rounsevell MDA, Reginster I, Araujo MB, Carter TR, Dendoncker N, Ewert F, House JI, Kankaanpaa S, Leemans R, Metzger MJ, Schmit C, Smith P, Tuck G (2006) A coherent set of future land-use change scenarios for Europe. Agric Ecosyst Environ 114:57–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ruprecht E (2005) Secondary succession in old-fields in the Transylvanian lowland (Romania). Preslia 77:145–157Google Scholar
  62. Ruprecht E (2006) Successfully recovered grassland: a promising example from Romanian old-fields. Restor Ecol 14:473–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sala OE, Chapin FS, Armesto JJ, Berlow E, Bloomfield J, Dirzo R, Huber-Sanwald E, Huenneke LF, Jackson RB, Kinzig A, Leemans R, Lodge DM, Mooney HA, Oesterheld M, Poff NL, Sykes MT, Walker BH, Walker M, Wall DH (2000) Biodiversity: global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287:1770–1774CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. SASCHA (2015) Sustainable land management and adaptation strategies to climate change for the Western Siberian Grain Belt. Accessed 30 April 2015
  65. Schielzeth H (2010) Simple means to improve the interpretability of regression coefficients. Methods Ecol Evol 1:103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schierhorn F, Müller D, Beringer T, Prishchepov AV, Kuemmerle T, Balmann A (2013) Post-Soviet cropland abandonment and carbon sequestration in European Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Global Biogeochem Cycle 27:1175–1185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Selezneva NS (1973) Forest steppe. In: Gwosdezkji NA (ed) Physical geographical zoning of Tyumen Oblast. Moscow University Press, Moscow, pp 144–174 (in Russian) Google Scholar
  68. Shahgedanova M (ed) (2002) The physical geography of Northern Eurasia. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  69. Smelansky I, Tishkov A (2012) The steppe biome in Russia: ecosystem services, conservation status and actual challenges. In: Werger MJA, Staalduinen MA (eds) Eurasian steppes. Ecological problems and livelihoods in a changing world. Springer, New York, pp 45–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sojneková M, Chytrý M (2015) From arable land to species-rich semi-natural grasslands: succession in abandoned fields in a dry region of central Europe. Ecol Eng 77:373–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stoate C, Báldi A, Beja P, Boatman ND, Herzon I, van Doorn A, de Snoo GR, Rakosy L, Ramwell C (2009) Ecological impacts of early 21st century agricultural change in Europe: a review. J Environ Manag 91:22–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. ter Braak CJF, Smilauer P (1997–2013) Canoco 5: software for multivariate data exploration, testing and summarization. Biometris, Plant Research International, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  73. The Royal Society (2009) Reaping the benefits: science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture. The Royal Society Science Policy, LondonGoogle Scholar
  74. Tichý L (2002) JUICE, software for vegetation classification. J Veg Sci 13:451–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Török P, Vida E, Deák B, Lengyel S, Tóthmérész B (2011) Grassland restoration on former croplands in Europe: an assessment of applicability of techniques and costs. Biodivers Conserv 20:2311–2332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Trabucco A, Zommer RJ (2009) Global aridity index (Global-Aridity) and global potential evapo-transpiration (Global-PET). Geospatial database, CGIAR Consortium for Spatial Information. Accessed 27 Jan 2014
  77. VDLUFA (2002) VDLUFA Verbandsmethode, 3. Teillieferung 2002. VDLUFA-Press, DarmstadtGoogle Scholar
  78. Veldman JW, Buisson E, Durigan G, Fernandes GW, Le Stradic S, Mahy G, Negreiros D, Overbeck GE, Veldman RG, Zaloumis NP, Putz FE, Bond WJ (2015) Toward an old-growth concept for grasslands, savannas, and woodlands. Front Ecol Environ 13:154–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Vorob’ev VV, Belov AV (eds) (1985) The vegetation of the Western Siberian lowland. Science Press, Nowosibirsk (in Russian) Google Scholar
  80. Walter H, Breckle S-W (1991) Ökologie der Erde. Gustav Fischer, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  81. Watt AD, Bradshaw RHW, Young J, Alard D, Bolger T, Chamberlain D, Fernandez-Gonzalez F, Fuller R, Gurrea P, Henle K, Johnson R, Korsos Z, Lavelle P, Niemelä J, Nowicki P, Rebane M, Scheidegger C, Sousa JP, van Swaay C, Vanbergen A (2007) Trends in biodiversity in Europe and the impact of land-use change. In: Hester RE, Harrison RM (eds) Biodiversity under threat., Issues in environmental science and technologyRoyal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, pp 135–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Werger MJA, Staalduinen MA (eds) (2012) Eurasian steppes. Ecological problems and livelihoods in a changing world. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Immo Kämpf
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Wanja Mathar
    • 2
  • Igor Kuzmin
    • 3
  • Norbert Hölzel
    • 2
  • Kathrin Kiehl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Vegetation Ecology and Botany, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Landscape ArchitectureOsnabrück University of Applied SciencesOsnabrückGermany
  2. 2.Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  3. 3.Tyumen State UniversityTyumenRussia

Personalised recommendations