Landscape Ecology

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 187–196 | Cite as

Landscape history of a calcareous (alvar) grassland in Hanila, western Estonia, during the last three hundred years

  • Meelis Pärtel
  • Riina Mändla
  • Martin Zobel


The landscape history of the largest calcareous seminatural alvar site (ca. 700 ha) in Estonia, is described with the help of a historical map from 1705 and aerial photographs from 1951, and recent vegetation mapping from 1994–1996. The seminatural, species rich alvar grasslands originate and are maintained by grazing of domestic animals. Three hundred years ago the area was mainly open grassland with sparse shrubs and some fields. Forty years ago the vegetation pattern was similar, with some smaller forests and forest clear-cut areas present. Now, since grazing has ceased for ca. 40 years, only 30% of the area remains as open grassland and 70% as forest. Identification of clusters of field layer vegetation using the program TABORD resulted in 8 clusters, which agreed with the empirically determined community types. The field layer within the young pine forest (up to 20 year old pines) is similar to the open alvar grassland. In older forests, the field layer has already changed. There were no phytosociological differences found between ancient grasslands and grasslands on former arable fields or forest clear-cut areas. Decrease in species richness, compared to open grassland, was most drastic in forests of age 20–40 years where the canopy was most closed. Forests have spread more extensively in areas with deeper soil. The continuation of traditional management (grazing and tree cutting) in alvar grasslands is urgently needed in order to keep seminatural alvar grasslands open. The possibility to restore open grasslands remains as long as there is a pool of grassland species available, especially in younger forests.

calcareous grassland community management GIS landscape history 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aaviksoo, K. 1993. Changes of plant cover and land use types (1950's to 1980's) in three mire reserves and their neighbourhood in Estonia. Landsc Ecol 8: 287–301.Google Scholar
  2. Aleksandrova, V. D. 1964. Vegetation dynamics. In Field Geobotany. Volume 3. pp. 300–447. Edited by E. M. Lavrenko and A. A. Korchagina. Nauka, Moscow.Google Scholar
  3. Aug, H. and Kokk, R. 1983. Eesti NSV looduslike rohumaade levik ja saagikus. Eesti NSV Agrotööstuskoondise Informatsiooni ja Juurutamise Valitsus, Tallinn.Google Scholar
  4. Bakker, J. P. 1989. Nature Management by Grazing and Cutting. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  5. Bakker, J. P., Bakker, E. S., Rosén, E., Verweij, G. L. and Bekker, R. M. 1996. Soil seed bank composition along a gradient from dry alvar grassland to Juniperus shrubland. J Veg Sci 7: 165–176.Google Scholar
  6. Belcher, J. W., Keddy, P. A. and Catling, P. M. 1992. Alvar vegetation in Canada: a multivariate description at two scales. Can J Bot 70: 1279–1291.Google Scholar
  7. Bengtsson-Lindsjö, S., Ihse, M. and Olsson, E. G. 1991. Landscape patterns and grassland plant species diversity in the 20th century. Ecol Bull 41: 388–396.Google Scholar
  8. Berglund, B. E. 1991. The cultural landscape during 6000 years in southern Sweden - the Ystad Project. Ecol Bull 41: 1–495.Google Scholar
  9. Bobbink, R. and Willems, J. H. 1987. Increasing dominance of Brachypodium pinnatum (L.) Beauv. in chalk grasslands: a threat to a species-rich ecosystem. Biol Conserv 40: 301–314.Google Scholar
  10. Burrichter, von E., Hüppe, J. & Pott, R. 1993. Agrarwirtschaftlich bedingte Vegetationsbereicherung und-verarmung in historischer Sicht. Phytocoenologia 23: 427–447.Google Scholar
  11. Catling, P. M. and Brownell, V. R. 1995. A review of the alvars of the great lakes region: distribution, floristic composition, biogeography and protection. Can Field Nat 109: 143–171.Google Scholar
  12. Eastman, J. R. 1993. IDRISI Update Manual. Version 4.1. Clark University, USA.Google Scholar
  13. Eilart, J. 1963. Pontiline ja pontosarmaatiline element Eesti flooras. Scripta Bot 3: 1–264.Google Scholar
  14. Ejrnæs, R. and Bruun, H. H. 1995. Predictions of grassland quality for environmental management. J Env Manage 41: 171–183.Google Scholar
  15. Eriksson, Å., Eriksson, O. and Berglund, H. 1995. Species abundance patterns of plants in Swedish semi-natural pastures. Ecography 18: 310–317.Google Scholar
  16. Foster, D. R. 1988. Disturbance history, community organization and vegetation dynamics of the old-growth pisgah forest, southwestern New Hampshire, U.S.A. J Ecol 76: 105–134.Google Scholar
  17. Gibson, C.W. D. and Brown, V. K. 1991a. The effects of grazing on local colonisation and extinction during early succession. J Veg Sci 2: 291–300.Google Scholar
  18. Gibson, C. W. D. and Brown, V. K. 1991b. The nature and rate of development of calcareous grassland in southern Britain. Biol Conserv 58: 297–316.Google Scholar
  19. Gibson, C. W. D. and Brown, V. K. 1992. Grazing and vegetation change: deflected or modified succession? J Appl Ecol 29: 120–131.Google Scholar
  20. Gibson, C. W. D., Watt, T. A. and Brown, V. K. 1987. The use of sheep grazing to recreate species-rich grassland from abandoned arable land. Biol Conserv 42: 165–183.Google Scholar
  21. Glenn-Lewin, D. C. and van der Maarel, E. 1992. Patterns and processes of vegetation dynamics. In Plant Succession: Theory and Prediction. pp. 11–59. Edited by D. C. Glenn-Lewin, R. K. Peet and T. T. Veben. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  22. Hæggström, C.-A. 1983. Vegetation and soil of the wooded meadows in Nåtö, Åland. Acta Bot Fenn 120: 1–66.Google Scholar
  23. Iverson, L. R. 1988. Land-use changes in Illinois, USA: The influence of landscape attributes on current and historic land use. Landsc Ecol 2: 45–61.Google Scholar
  24. Jackel, A. K. and Poschlod, P. 1994. Diaspore production and the influence of the size of diaspore rain in two calcareous grassland sites. Ber Inst Landschafts-Pflanzenökologie Univ Hohenheim 3: 123–132.Google Scholar
  25. Jones, J. R. 1993. TOSCA Reference Guide. Version 2.0. Clark University, USA.Google Scholar
  26. Kahk, J. 1992. Eesti talurahva ajalugu. Olion, Tallinn.Google Scholar
  27. Kalamees, R. and Zobel, M. 1997. The seed bank in an Estonian calcareous grassland: comparison of different successional stages. Folia Geobot Phytotax 32: 1–14.Google Scholar
  28. Kienast, F. 1993. Analysis of historic landscape patterns with a Geographic Information System - a methodological outline. Landsc Ecol 8: 103–118.Google Scholar
  29. Knapp, R. 1974. Syndynamical analysis and conclusions by means of the present vegetation status, of earlier records and of repeated studies on permanent plots. In Vegetation Dynamics. Handbook of Vegetation Science. Vol 8. pp. 43–57. Edited by R. Knapp. Dr. Junk, The Hague.Google Scholar
  30. Krahulec, F., Rosén, E. and van der Maarel, E. 1986. Preliminary classification and ecology of dry grassland communities on Öland Stora Alvar (Sweden). Nord J Bot 6: 797–809.Google Scholar
  31. Krall, H., Pork, E., Aug, H., Püss, Õ., Rooma, I. and Teras, T. 1980. Eesti NSV looduslike rohumaade tüübid ja tähtsamad taimekooslused. Tallinn.Google Scholar
  32. Küchler, A. W. 1967. Vegetation Mapping. The Ronald Press, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Kukk, Ñ. 1995. Kaitsealused taimeliigid. Eesti Loodus 4: 112–114.Google Scholar
  34. Kull, K. and Zobel, M. 1991. High species richness in an Estonian wooded meadow. J Veg Sci 2: 711–714.Google Scholar
  35. Laasimer, L. 1965. Eesti NSV taimkate. Valgus, Tallinn.Google Scholar
  36. Laasimer, L. 1973. Loopealsed siit ja sealtpoolt Läänemerd. Eesti Loodus 11: 683–687.Google Scholar
  37. Lõhmus, E. 1984. Eesti metsakasvukohatüübid. Tartu.Google Scholar
  38. Lõugas, V. 1975. Ñber die Entstehung ortsgebundener Bodenbaukultur in West-Estland. Trans Estonian Acad Sci 1: 85–88.Google Scholar
  39. Mandel, M. 1975. Ausgrabungen der Steingräber von Kaseküla. Trans Eston Acad Sci 1: 74–76.Google Scholar
  40. Mandel, M. 1982. Archäologische Grabungen inWestestland. Trans Eston Acad Sci 4: 381–384.Google Scholar
  41. Maslov, A. A. 1990. Multi-scaled and multi-species pattern analysis in boreal forest communities. In Spatial Processes in Plant Communities. pp. 83–88. Edited by F. Krahulec, A. D. Q. Agnew, S. Agnew and J. H. Willems. SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague.Google Scholar
  42. Oomes, J. M. J. 1990. Changes in dry matter and nutrient yields during the restoration of species-rich grasslands. J Veg Sci 1: 333–338.Google Scholar
  43. Ouborg, N. J. 1993. Isolation, population size and extinction: The classical and metapopulation approaches applied to vascular plants along the Dutch Rhine-system. Oikos 66: 298–308.Google Scholar
  44. Pärtel, M., Zobel, M., Zobel, K. and van der Maarel, E. 1996. The species pool and its relation to species richness: evidence from Estonian plant communities. Oikos 75: 111–117.Google Scholar
  45. Pärtel, M. and Zobel, M. 1995. Small-scale dynamics and species richness in successional alvar plant communities. Ecography 18: 83–90.Google Scholar
  46. Peet, R. K., van der Maarel, E., Rosén, E., Willems, J. H., Norquist, C. and Walker, J. 1990. Mechanisms of coexistence in species-rich grasslands. Bull Ecol Soc Am 71: 283.Google Scholar
  47. Reintam, L. 1995. Soils in Estonia. In Soil and Fertilization. pp. 122–131. Edited by P. Kuldkepp. Estonian Agricultural University, Tartu.Google Scholar
  48. Rejmánek, M. and Rosén, E. 1988. The effects of colonizing shrubs (Juniperus communis and Potentilla fruticosa) on species richness in the grasslands of Stora Alvaret, Öland (Sweden). Acta Phytogeogr Suec 76: 67–72.Google Scholar
  49. Rõõmusoks, A. 1983. Eesti aluspõhja geoloogia. Valgus, Tallinn.Google Scholar
  50. Rosén, E. 1982. Vegetation development and sheep grazing in limestone grasslands of south Öland, Sweden. Acta Phytogeogr Suec 72: 1–104.Google Scholar
  51. Schaefer, C. A. and Larson, D. W. 1997. Vegetation, environmental characteristics and ideas on the maintenance of alvars on the Bruce Peninsula, Canada. J Veg Sci 8: 797–810.Google Scholar
  52. Vallner, L., Sildvee, H. and Torim, A. 1988. Recent crustal movements in Estonia. J Geodynam 9: 215–233.Google Scholar
  53. van der Maarel, E. and Sykes, M. T. 1993. Small-scale plant species turnover in a limestone grassland: the carousel model and some comments on the niche concept. J Veg Sci 4: 179–188.Google Scholar
  54. van der Maarel, E. 1988. Floristic diversity and guild structure in the grasslands of Öland's Stora Alvar. Acta Phytogeogr Suec 76: 53–65.Google Scholar
  55. van der Maarel, E. and Titlyanova, A. 1989. Above-ground and below-ground biomass related in steppes under different grazing conditions. Oikos 56: 364–370.Google Scholar
  56. van der Maarel, E., Janssen, J. G. M. and Louppen, J. M. W. 1978. Tabord, a program for structuring phytosociological tables. Vegetatio 38: 143–156.Google Scholar
  57. van Dijk, G. 1991. The status of semi-natural grasslands in Europe. In The Conservation of Lowland Dry Grassland Birds in Europe. pp. 15–36. Edited by P. D. Goriup, L. A. Batten and J. A. Norton. JNCC Publ., Newbury.Google Scholar
  58. van Dorp, D., Boot, R. and van der Maarel, E. 1985. Vegetation succession on the dynes near Oostvoorne, The Netherlands, since 1934, interpreted from air photographs and vegetation maps. Vegetatio 58: 123–136.Google Scholar
  59. Vilbaste, G. 1938. Taimkate. In Läänemaa: maateaduslik, majanduslik ja ajalooline kirjeldus. pp. 47–67. Edited by H. Haberman. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, Tartu.Google Scholar
  60. Westhoff, V. 1971. The dynamic structure of plant communities in relation to the objectives of conservation. In The Scientific Management of Animal and Plant Communities. pp. 3–14. Edited by E. Duffey and A. S. Watt. Blackwell Scientific Publication, Oxford.Google Scholar
  61. Zobel, M. 1984. Loopealsed, kadastikud, lookadastikud. Eesti Loodus 6: 372–378.Google Scholar
  62. Zobel, M. 1997. The relative role of species pools in determining plant species richness: an alternative explanation of species coexistence? Trends Ecol Evol 12: 266–269.Google Scholar
  63. Zobel, M. and Kont, A. 1992. Formation and succession of alvar communities in the Baltic land uplift area. Nord J Bot 12: 249–256.Google Scholar
  64. Zobel, M., Suurkask, M., Rosén, E. and Pärtel, M. 1996. The dynamics of species richness in an experimentally restored calcareous grassland. J Veg Sci 7: 203–210.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meelis Pärtel
    • 1
  • Riina Mändla
    • 1
  • Martin Zobel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Botany and EcologyUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

Personalised recommendations