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The Importance of Transplant Size and Gap Width in the Botanical Enrichment of Species-Poor Grasslands in Britain



A series of five grasslands of differing agricultural productivity and species diversity was chosen for this study. Four of these areas were divided into three sub-plots, each under a different management regime (either mown, sheep, or cattle grazed). Each sub-plot was inoculated with 180 transplants comprised of 12 individuals of 15 perennial species. These species were chosen to provide a spectrum of ‘phytometers’ to evaluate the receptivity of the grasslands to species introduction. Half of the plants were 9-cm pot-grown transplants, the other half, 2-cm plug plants. One-third of each of the transplant sizes was inserted into either 0-cm, 15-cm, or 30-cm-diameter gaps. Evaluation of species enrichment success was made by monitoring the survivorship of the transplants over a three-year study period. The fifth grassland was already species-rich and, therefore, left untreated and used as a reference community. The species could be classified into three main groups on the basis of their survivorship: (a) species with higher survivorship for pot than plug transplants; (b) species that established significantly better as plug than as pot transplants; and (c) species that suffered equally high mortalities as either pot or plug transplants. For three out of the four grasslands, the size of competition-free gaps was not significant in enhancing survivorship for either pot or plug transplants. Gap creation only aided survivorship for the set of plug plants inserted into the most productive grassland. Transplant survival was strongly negatively correlated with soil P and K concentrations, and peak biomass. In this, the establishment phase, the three management treatment regimes did not have a significant differential effect on transplant survival. The results are discussed in relation to practical techniques for restoring species-poor grasslands using transplants.

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