Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 12, pp 3073–3089 | Cite as

Mowing for biodiversity: grass trimmer and knife mower perform equally well

  • Malin Tälle
  • Karl-Olof Bergman
  • Heidi Paltto
  • Aina Pihlgren
  • Roger Svensson
  • Lars Westerberg
  • Jörgen Wissman
  • Per MilbergEmail author
Original Paper


Mowing of semi-natural grasslands is an important management method to maintain the conservation value and species-richness of this habitat. Mowing using cutting instruments, e.g. sickle bar mowers, is thought to be superior by practitioners compared with other mechanical instruments that tears off the plant material, e.g. grass trimmers. However, almost no studies exist that supports this assumption. We analysed a 12-year field trial in a semi-natural grassland in south-eastern Sweden, with the aim of determining which mowing technique best maintains the conservation value of semi-natural grasslands. Two mowing techniques were compared: mowing using a hand-pushed sickle bar mower (a type of knife mower), or mowing using a grass trimmer at a 5-cm or 0-cm cutting height. The odds that a recorded species belongs to a group of indicator species were calculated for sample plots, and odds ratios were calculated contrasting treatments. Three types of indicator species classification systems were used: (i) indicators of management for species richness, (ii) indicators of excess nitrogen and (iii) indicators of lack of management. The odds ratios were calculated for years 1–5, 7 and 12 of the trial. In addition, Principal Response Curve analysis was performed to analyse the change in vegetation composition over time and ANOVA for plant species richness in plots. The results showed that over time there were no differences in the odds of finding indicators of any of the three types, for any of the mowing techniques. Furthermore, there were no apparent change in vegetation composition and only a small effect on richness. These results suggest that mowing using a sickle bar mower or a grass trimmer had the same effect on the floristic composition of grasslands, and both techniques can be recommended for use in semi-natural grasslands.


Indicators Management Meta-analysis Mowing techniques Odds ratio Semi-natural grassland Sweden 


ln OR

Logarithm of odds ratio


Principal Response Curve



We thank Kenneth Strand for faithfully conducting the mowing, and we thank those who helped in the vegetation surveys. This study was financially supported by the County Administration Board in Östergötland, the former Department of Conservation Biology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Stiftelsen Oscar och Lili Lamms minne.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malin Tälle
    • 1
  • Karl-Olof Bergman
    • 1
  • Heidi Paltto
    • 1
  • Aina Pihlgren
    • 2
  • Roger Svensson
    • 2
  • Lars Westerberg
    • 1
  • Jörgen Wissman
    • 2
  • Per Milberg
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.IFM Biology, Conservation Ecology Group Linköping UniversityLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Swedish Biodiversity CentreSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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