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Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 9, pp 1563–1576 | Cite as

Effects of grazing on seasonal variation of aboveground biomass quality in calcareous grasslands

  • Till Kleinebecker
  • Heidi Weber
  • Norbert Hölzel
Article

Abstract

Low-intensive grazing is a widely used management tool to conserve the outstanding biodiversity of calcareous grasslands. As conservation management is cost-intensive and often hampered by limited financial resources, combining adequate management for biodiversity conservation with feasible livestock production may be relevant for both conservationists and land managers. However, profound knowledge of the effect of grazing in non-intensively used grasslands on seasonal variation in biomass quality is scarce. We analyzed the floristic composition, abiotic soil properties and the chemical composition of aboveground biomass in a grazed calcareous grassland in NW Germany. Sampling took place in monthly intervals during one growing season. To separate the impact of grazing and non-grazing on biomass quality, an exclosure experiment was performed. Floristic composition of the studied calcareous grasslands was mainly related to two gradients representing the trophic status and the long-term management intensity. Differences in abiotic site conditions were hardly reflected by nutrient concentrations in the biomass. Irrespectively of abiotic site conditions, the chemical composition of the biomass showed a clear seasonal trend. Nutrient concentrations strongly declined from May to July but increased again in August, probably because of favourable current-year weather conditions. Sheep grazing improved biomass quality indicating that grazing modifies the environment beneficially for the animals. We conclude that early spring and late summer grazing is an appropriate management scheme to balance requirements of both feasible livestock production and biodiversity conservation, which is promising for sustainable and long-term conservation management.

Keywords

Conservation management Nitrogen N:P ratio Phosphorus Semi-natural grasslands Temporal variation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Jürgen Schienke (shepherd) for background information and support during field work. Kathrin Kiehl (University of Applied Science Osnabrück) and Verena Möllenbeck (University of Münster) provided helpful comments to a former version of this manuscript. Lillian Harris polished our English.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Till Kleinebecker
    • 1
  • Heidi Weber
    • 1
  • Norbert Hölzel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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