Question: How do moderate grazing, topsoil removal and hay transfer affect species diversity and abundance on a eutrophic fen grassland site?
Location: Northern Germany.
Method: A three-factorial field experiment with the factors grazing, topsoil removal and hay transfer of diaspore-rich material was established in 2001. Soil nutrients and seed bank were analysed at the beginning of the experiment, species composition and vegetation development was monitored for four years (2002–2005).
Results: Topsoil removal had a significant effect on the abundance of different plant species groups: resident vegetation of agricultural grasslands was suppressed, while clonal reed species were facilitated in recolonising the area. The establishment of regionally rare and endangered species of nutrient-poor fens and wet meadows introduced with hay was achieved mainly on plots with topsoil removal, with the exception of Rhinanthus angustifolius, which also established on plots with intact topsoil. Effects of grazing after four years of experiments were of minor influence on species composition.
Conclusion: The establishment of target plant species of nutrient-poor fens is most successful when both an adequate number of viable diaspores and suitable sites for germination and establishment are available. In our experiment this was achieved by the combination of topsoil removal and hay transfer. We recommend this combination, together with continuous management (grazing/cutting), for further restoration in fen grasslands.
Nomenclature: Wisskirchen & Haeupler (1998).