Changes in the structure and floristic composition of the limestone grasslands after cutting trees and shrubs and mowing

Wojciech Bąba


The calcareous grasslands belong to the species-rich plant communities in Poland. Most of them are of anthropogenic origin and they need specific management (i.e. periodical cutting suckers of trees and shrubs, grazing or mowing) in order to protect their floristic diversity. Many of calcareous grasslands have been overgrown by shrubs as a result of cessation of traditional management. The aim of this study was to compare the structure and dynamics of xerothermic hazel shrub patches, which were undergoing secondary succession with patches where different management practices aiming at restoration of species-rich limestone grassland were applied. The managed plots had a significantly higher species richness than the control one. However, they strongly differed in their floristic composition from well-preserved limestone grasslands. There were also significant differences observed between both the managed plots. Too intensive management, particularly frequent mowing of herbs resulted in expansion of grass species such as Brachypodium pinnatum and Calamagrostis arundinacea and caused a sharp decline in species richness.

The species composition and turnover rate strongly depended on succesional stage (soil layer thickness) of plots at the start of the experiment. The deeper was the soil, the higher was the rate of species turnover and the smaller was the share of xerothermic and thermophilous species. The last mentioned group was dominated by species with a persistent seed bank in the soil, frequently colonizing anthropogenic habitats.


biodiversity; clearing; shrub management; RDA; restoration; secondary succession; species mobility

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