Landscape Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 315–332 | Cite as

Modelling the effects of landscape pattern and grazing regimes on the persistence of plant species with high conservation value in grasslands in south-eastern Sweden

  • Sara A.O. Cousins
  • Sandra Lavorel
  • Ian Davies


Semi-natural grasslands in Sweden are threatened by land-use change and lack of management with attendant risk to their biodiversity. We present a model to explore the effects of grazing frequency and intensity on plant species persistence, and the relative effects of grassland size and pattern. We used a landscape modelling platform, LAMOS (LAndscape MOdelling Shell), to design a landscape model of vegetation dynamics incorporating the effects of local succession, dispersal and grazing disturbance. Five plant functional groups (PFG), representing various combinations of persistence and dispersal character, light requirements and disturbance responses, were defined to model species dynamics. Based on old cadastral maps three different landscapes were designed representing specific time-layers, i.e., a historical (17th to 18th century), a pre-modern (1940s) and a present-day landscape. Simulations showed that a threshold was crossed when grasslands decreased in area to about 10–30% of the modelled area, and as a consequence the biomass of grassland-specific PFGs was strongly reduced. These competition sensitive groups did not persist in the model even with intense grazing in the present-day landscape, where grasslands occupy 11% of the total area. However, all grassland species would have been able to persist in the historical landscape, where grasslands occupied 59% of the total area, even without grazing. Our results suggest that continuous but low-intensity grazing is more positive for grassland PFGs than discontinuous but highly intensive grazing. This effect was particularly strong when the frequency and/or intensity of grazing dropped below a threshold of 20%. Simulations using three landscape maps designed to explore effects of further fragmentation and habitat loss showed that the spatial pattern of remaining grasslands is important for the persistence of grassland-specific PFG. The model presented here is an advance towards more realistic grazing models to explore the effects of prescribed grazing and landscape fragmentation on the persistence species or plant functional groups.

disturbance LAMOS landscape history land use modelling Plant Functional Groups semi-natural grassland 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara A.O. Cousins
    • 1
  • Sandra Lavorel
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ian Davies
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Botany/ Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary GeologyStockholm UniversitySweden
  2. 2.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRSMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Ecosystem Dynamics Group, Research School of Biological SciencesAustralian National UniversityAustralia

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