Plant species decline due to abandonment of meadows cannot easily be reversed by mowing. A case study from the southern Alps

Abstract

We resumed mowing in two plots of ca. 100 m2 in an abandoned meadow dominated by Brachypodium pinnatum on the slope of Monte Generoso (Switzerland). We monitored species composition and hay yield using point quadrats and biomass samples. Species frequencies changed little during 10 yr (1988-1997) while hay yields showed large fluctuations according to mean relative humidity in April-June. We performed a seed-addition experiment to test whether the establishment of meadow species is limited by lack of diaspores or favourable microsites for germination and recruitment from the seed bank. We sowed ca. 12 000 seeds of 12 species originating from a nearby meadow individually in plots of a 4 × 6 unbalanced Latin square with four treatments, burning, mowing, mowing and removal of a layer of decayed organic matter, and a control. We monitored the fate of seedling individuals for 24 months. Seedlings of all species were established and survived for 12 months, 10 species survived during at least 24 months, some reached a reproductive stage. Species responded to different qualities of microsites provided by the different treatments thus required different regeneration niches. Spontaneous long-distance immigration was insignificant. We conclude that the former species composition of abandoned meadows cannot easily be restored by mowing alone because many plant species of meadows do not have persistent seed banks and immigration over distances of more than 25 m and successful establishment is very unlikely.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Zeiter1999PlantSD, title={Plant species decline due to abandonment of meadows cannot easily be reversed by mowing. A case study from the southern Alps}, author={M . vanished A . Zeiter and Andreas Stampfli}, year={1999} }