Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 729–750 | Cite as

Management effects on botanical composition of species-rich meadows within the Natura 2000 network

  • Meike BoobEmail author
  • Barbara Truckses
  • Melanie Seither
  • Martin Elsäßer
  • Ulrich Thumm
  • Iris Lewandowski
Original Paper


Species-rich hay meadows have evolved through traditional management. They are important habitats for plant and animal species and therefore protected by the EU Habitats Directive. The maintenance of these meadows requires regular cutting, but this can only be guaranteed if farmers benefit in some way. Both agricultural productivity and botanical composition are fundamentally affected by management practices. For this reason, a management that balances productivity and conservation goals is necessary. The purpose of this study is to determine the site-specific influence of extensive fertilisation and date of first cut on the botanical composition of species-rich hay meadows. Three fertilisation variants (none, PK and NPK) and four cutting-date variants (based on phenological stage: first cut before, at beginning of, at end of and after flowering of main grasses) were tested on lowland hay meadows at two sites. However, after the 3 years of the trial, the date of first cut had still not significantly influenced botanical composition at the first site. By contrast, annual fertilisation was found to have a significant effect on botanical composition. The conservation status of the species-rich meadows was downgraded (grades given according to assessment parameters) mainly through the application of NPK fertiliser (35 kg P2O5, 120 kg K2O and 35 kg N ha−1) each year. At one site, cutting before flowering led to declining proportions of annuals and biennials. Surprisingly, at the other site, the date of first cut had still not significantly influenced botanical composition by the end of the 3-year trial.


Fertilization Cutting date Lowland hay meadow Grassland vegetation 



We would like to thank the laboratories of Ihinger Hof for the soil analyses, as well as D. Mezger, J. Class, S. Rothenhäusler and students for their technical support. We are grateful to landowners and farmers for providing the species-rich meadows. We thank J. Möhring and A. Bernal for their statistical advice and N. Gaudet for improving the language quality of the manuscript. This work was supported by earmarked contributions of the Gluecksspirale and Stiftung Naturschutzfonds Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1689_MOESM1_ESM.docx (74 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 79 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meike Boob
    • 1
    Email author
  • Barbara Truckses
    • 1
  • Melanie Seither
    • 2
  • Martin Elsäßer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ulrich Thumm
    • 1
  • Iris Lewandowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Biobased Products and Energy Crops (340b), Institute of Crop Science (340)University of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Grassland DivisionAgricultural Centre for Cattle Production, Grassland Management, Dairy Management, Wildlife and Fisheries Baden-WuerttembergAulendorfGermany

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