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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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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)

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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

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