In France, most civil engineering and excavation projects are at present accompanied by compensatory measures with the aim of preserving biodiversity. In order to avoid the destruction of a habitat of high conservation interest in NE France, harbouring two legally protected plant species, an experiment of soil translocation was conducted on an area of 1 ha. The donor site was an extensively managed mesophilic meadow and the receiving site was a neighbouring arable land. The vegetation of the translocated meadow was described 8 and 17 months after soil translocation, and compared (1) with vegetation resulting from more classical restoration techniques tested on the arable land (natural regeneration and seed mixture sowing) and (2) with the soil seed bank and vegetation previously present on the donor site. Results showed that the soil translocation technique permitted the development of many meadow species, including two legally protected species, and few ruderal species despite a large area of bare ground. This technique seems effective in terms of number and abundance of meadow species compared to natural regeneration and commercial seed sowing. In the case of the two classical methods, species richness was lower and only widespread species were present. Topsoil translocation provides a good compensatory method to avoid habitat and species destruction. However, the study should be continued, with the aim of assessing the longer term development and stabilization of the vegetation of the translocated meadow.
Nomenclature: Lambinon et al. (1992).