Hay strewing, brush harvesting of seed and soil disturbance as tools for the enhancement of botanical diversity in grasslands.

Edwards, Andrew R.; Mortimer, Simon R.; Lawson, Clare S.; Westbury, Duncan B.; Harris, Stephanie J.; Woodcock, Ben A. and Brown, Valerie K (2007). Hay strewing, brush harvesting of seed and soil disturbance as tools for the enhancement of botanical diversity in grasslands. Biological Conservation, 134(3) pp. 372–382.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2006.08.025

Abstract

Since the middle of the last century agricultural intensification within Europe has led to a drastic decline in the extent of botanically diverse grasslands. Whilst measures to enhance the diversity of agriculturally-improved grasslands are in place, success has often been limited. One of the primary factors limiting success is the paucity of sources of propagules of desirable species in the surrounding landscape. The restoration of two contrasting grassland types (lowland hay meadow and chalk grassland) was examined using a replicated block experiment to assess the effectiveness of two methods of seed application (hay strewing and brush harvesting) and two methods of pre-treatment disturbance (power harrowing and turf stripping). The resulting changes in botanical composition were monitored for 4 years. Seed addition by both methods resulted in significant temporal trends in plant species composition and increases in plant species richness, which were further enhanced by disturbance. Power harrowing increased the effectiveness of the seed addition treatments at the lowland hay meadow site. At the chalk grassland site a more severe disturbance created by turf stripping was used and shown to be preferable. Whilst both hay strewing and brush harvesting increased plant species richness, hay strewing was more effective at creating a sward similar to that of the donor site. Soil disturbance and seed application rate at the recipient site and timing of the hay cut at the donor site are all factors to be considered prior to the commencement of restoration management.

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