The effect of hay blowing instead of hay raking on plant biodiversity – a case study of a dry meadow in a Swiss mountain region
Low-input dry meadows are habitats of high nature value. More and more, less time-consuming harvesting techniques replace different steps of the traditional hay making process. The use of leaf blowers instead of rakes for hay making became popular in the last ten years in Switzerland. Thus, we set up a case study to test effects on the conservation value. The studied dry meadow of high nature value is located in the municipality of Stans (Switzerland). After five years no significant differences between blown and raked plots in species richness, richness of target an indicator species, medium plant-indicator values, i.e. nutrients, humidity, light or in the species assemblages were observed. From 2010 until 2014 the moss cover increased in all plots. The differences between raked and blown plots were not significant. In 2015, however, the difference between the two treatments increased to 13%. While the moss cover of the blown plots remained at 20%, the moss cover of the raked plots dropped to 7%. These results from only one case study and only a short observation period of five years do not allow a generalization, but they give a first impression of the short-term effects. We recommend managers of dry meadows with high nature values to keep an eye on the change of moss cover and potential changes of conservation values when leaf blowers instead of rakes are used for hay harvesting.
KeywordsHay meadow management Leaf blowing Plant species richness Bryophyte Hay making process Conservation value
We thank the farmer Markus Odermatt, Seewli, Obbürgen and job-vision, Stans, for the management of the meadow and Markus Baggenstoss, Serge Buholzer, Gisela Lüscher, René Hoess, Alexander Indermaur, Andrea Klieber-Kühne for doing vegetation relevé and Debra Bailey, Felix Herzog and Anja Gramlich for revising the manuscript. And of course a special thank we give the editors and anonymous reviewers for comments which helped to improve and streamline the manuscript.
We guarantee to have no conflict of interest and that our experiments comply with the current law of Switzerland.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Authorship and Conflict of Interest
Thomas Walter was leading the project. He designed the project and wrote the manuscript. Eliane Meier performed the statistical analysis and revised the manuscript. Hanspeter Rohrer initiated the study and was responsible for the organization and management of the parcels over the five years. Nina Richner organized the botanical relevé and carried out the majority of them herself, and she also revised the manuscript. The authors confirm to have no conflict of interest, which would have influenced the outcome of the study.
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