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Sustaining recovered grasslands is not likely without proper management: vegetation changes after cessation of mowing


Grasslands recovered by sowing low diversity seed mixtures of local provenance are usually managed by mowing. Besides restoration success only a few studies have focused on the direct effects of post-restoration mowing on recovered grassland vegetation. In this study we followed vegetation changes in 13 successfully recovered grasslands in 5 × 5-m-sized sites with continuous and ceased mowing at Hortobágy National Park, East-Hungary. We asked the following questions: (i) What are the effects of cessation of mowing on the vegetation structure and diversity of recovered grasslands? (ii) What are the effects of cessation of mowing on the abundance of sown grasses, target and undesirable species? (iii) Is yearly mowing an appropriate management tool for the maintenance of recovered grasslands? Our results showed that the cessation of mowing caused litter accumulation, while diversity, total vegetation cover and the cover of sown grasses decreased compared to the mown sites. The cover of undesirable perennial species was significantly higher in unmown sites than in mown ones. The species composition of mown sites remained more similar to near-natural grasslands than the unmown ones. Our results suggest that without regular post-restoration mowing the favourable status of recovered grasslands can rapidly decline due to litter accumulation and by the expansion of undesirable species, even in the short-run. We also stress that while yearly mowing is enough to maintain grasslands recovered by low-diversity seed sowing, it cannot be considered to be enough to recover target vegetation composition.

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We are indebted to Á. Albert, L. Gál, I. Kapocsi, Sz. Lengyel, B. Lukács, Sz. Radócz, Gy. Szabó, Sz. Tasnády, L-né Tegdes, E. Vida for their help in field and laboratory work. Grassland restoration was financed by a grant from the LIFE Nature programme of the European Union (LIFE04NAT/HU/000119, The authors was supported by a joint Grant from the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund and the Norway Financing Mechanism (OTKA NNF 78887) and TÁMOP 4.2.1./B-09/1/KONV-2010-0007, TÁMOP-4.2.2_B-10_1-2010-0024 and TÁMOP- 4.2.4.A/2-11-1-2012-0001, TÁMOP-4.2.2/C-11/1/KONV-2012-0010 projects. The TÁMOP project is implemented through the New Hungary Development Plan, co-financed by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. The second author (P.T.) was supported by the Bolyai János Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and by Hungarian Scientific Research Fund PD 100192 project.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Péter Török.

Additional information

Communicated by David L. Hawksworth.


Appendix 1

See Table 2.

Table 2 Vegetation characteristics in recovered grasslands sown by seed-mixtures in the study

Appendix 2

Full name of the most frequent 20 species and their abbreviations used in Fig. 3 and all other species detected in the studied grassland stands.


Achillea collina


Alopecurus pratensis


Bromus inermis


Centaurea pannonica


Cirsium arvense


Convolvulus arvensis


Cynodon dactylon


Elymus repens


Festuca pseudovina


Festuca rupicola


Filipendula vulgaris


Galium verum


Lepidium campestre


Picris hieracioides


Plantago lanceolata


Poa angustifolia


Salvia nemorosa


Thymus glabrescens


Vicia grandiflora


Vicia hirsuta

Further species in order of decreasing cover and frequency

Centaurea pannonica, Carex praecox, Vicia angustifolia, Podospermum canum, Plantago maritima, Alopecurus pratensis, Trifolium campestre, Taraxacum officinale, Carduus acanthoides, Lathyrus tuberosus, Lactuca serriola, Ornithogalum kotschii, Veronica verna, Bromus mollis, Festuca pratensis, Dactylis glomerata, Medicago lupulina, Veronica hederifolia, Gypsophila muralis, Arrhenatherum elatius, Agrostis stolonifera, Lotus corniculatus, Fragaria viridis, Euphorbia cyparissias, Koeleria cristata, Stellaria graminea, Trifolium striatum, Lathyrus tuberosus, Galium spurium, Alyssum alyssoides, Pimpinella saxifraga, Salvia austriaca, Verbascum phoeniceum, Lactuca saligna, Stellaria media, Vicia villosa, Potentilla arenaria, Knautia arvensis, Ajuga genevensis, Inula britannica, Conyza canadensis, Medicago falcata, Eryngium campestre, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Dianthus pontederae, Consolida regalis, Potentilla heptaphylla, Lepidium draba, Potentilla argentea, Geranium molle, Melandrium album, Falcaria vulgaris, Daucus carota, Bromus tectorum, Cruciata pedemontana, Matricaria inodora, Hypericum perforatum, Vicia tetrasperma, Poa bulbosa, Chenopodium hybridum, Lamium purpureum, Bromus arvensis, Cerastium dubium, Arenaria serpyllifolia, Viola arvensis, Fumaria schleicherii, Bupleurum tenuissimum, Bilderdykia convolvulus, Papaver rhoeas, Cirsium vulgare, Lamium amplexicaule, Sonchus arvensis, Veronica prostrata, Trifolium repens, Trifolium angulatum, Puccinellia limosa, Melandrium viscosum, Bromus erectus, Viola kitaibeliana, Erysimum repandum, Veronica polita, Polygonum aviculare, Aster tripolium subsp. pannonicus, Trifolium arvense, Lithospermum arvense, Myosotis stricta, Scleranthus annuus, Lolium perenne, Lepidium perfoliatum, Trifolium retusum, Thlaspi arvense, Veronica arvensis, Lepidium ruderale, Erodium cicutarium, Agrimonia eupatoria, Vicia lathyroides, Veronica triphyllos, Chenopodium album, Melilotus officinalis, Setaria viridis, Epilobium tetragonum, Erysimum repandum.

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Kelemen, A., Török, P., Valkó, O. et al. Sustaining recovered grasslands is not likely without proper management: vegetation changes after cessation of mowing. Biodivers Conserv 23, 741–751 (2014).

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  • Grassland restoration
  • Seed sowing
  • Abandonment
  • Post-restoration management
  • Biodiversity
  • Cirsium arvense