Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 231–247 | Cite as

Reinforced Traditional Management is Needed to Save a Declining Meadow Species. A Demographic Analysis

  • Lotta Wallin
  • Brita M. SvenssonEmail author


The changes in agricultural practices during the last century have led to a drastic decrease in the number of traditionally managed hay meadows. Also, traditional management practices are often applied more cursorily in the remaining meadows. In combination with an increase in aerial anthropogenic nitrogen deposition, this has led to a loss of biodiversity. To investigate whether the current management is sufficient for maintaining viable populations of a typical meadow plant, Succisa pratensis, we experimentally reinforced the raking and mowing parts of the traditional management over four years in a two-by-two factorial experiment in three traditionally managed wooded hay meadows on the Baltic island of Gotland, Sweden. We found decreased litter and hay production in two of the three studied meadows as a result of our treatments. Plant sizes and asymptotic population growth rates (λ) of S. pratensis increased, particularly in plots receiving the combined raking and mowing treatment. Stochastic long-term population growth rates (λ s ) increased under the reinforced management: projected population sizes 50 years into the future showed a three-fold increase in raked plots and a 17-fold increase in plots that were both raked and mown. Because we found positive responses even in these seemingly well-managed meadows we conclude that it is essential that management is carried out more thoroughly to ensure viable population sizes. Our conclusion applies to most semi-natural grasslands receiving anthropogenic nitrogen, or where traditional management practices are less rigorously applied. We also suggest using biomass estimation instead of vegetation height as a measure of management strength.


Anthropogenic nitrogen Matrix population models Mowing Raking Stochastic growth rate Succisa pratensis 



We would like to thank the managers of the meadows for sharing this wonderful habitat with us: Ingrid and Anders Lingvall, Lars-Göran Söderström and Helen Eriksson, and Ardre hembygdsförening. Also, great thanks to the field assistants: Lotta Borg, Katrine Bruntse, Therese Eriksson, Ellen Flygare, Karin Jakobsson, and Monia Lindeberg. The study has been funded by a grant from Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research to B.M.S., and from Bjurzons, Extensus, E. Hellgrens, Helge Ax:son Johnsons, P.O. Lundells, B. Lundmans, and Tullbergs scholarships to L.W. The manuscript has been improved by comments from Hamish Avery, Bengt Å. Carlsson, Johan Ehrlén, Håkan Rydin, Jon Ågren, and three anonymous reviewers. All are gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

12224_2012_9123_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (9 kb)
Table S1 Matrix transitions for Succisa pratensis populations in the Bölske, Kullands and Mullvalds meadows, for all treatments (control, C; raking, R; mowing, M; raking + mowing, RM). Data is based on pooled matrices 2003–2006. i = stage in year t +1, j = stage in year t. The figures correspond to the following stages: 1: seedling, 2: juvenile, 3: small vegetative, 4: large vegetative, 5: small flowering, and 6: large flowering. In bold are transitions that contributed the most to the increased population growth rates in treated plots compared to the control (LTRE, see the article) (PDF 9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Ecology and Evolution, Evolutionary Biology CentreUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.ChristchurchNew Zealand

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