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Influence of Seed Mixture and Hydrological Regime on the Establishment of a Diverse Grassland Sward at a Site with High Phosphorus Availability



Abstract Three experiments were undertaken to investigate the influence of seed mixture on the establishment of a target grassland community on a site with high available phosphorus. In the first experiment autumn- and spring-sown commercial seed mixtures were compared with seed harvested from a nature reserve with respect to their ability to produce an inundation grassland community similar to that described by the British National Vegetation Classification (NVC) as Agrostis stolonifera–Alopecurus geniculatus grassland (MG13). In the second experiment the composition and sowing rate of a commercial seed mixture were altered to investigate whether these factors were significant in the establishment of a sward similar to MG13. Similarly, in the third experiment the composition of a commercial seed mixture designed to achieve an alternative community, Cynosurus cristatus–Caltha palustris grassland (NVC code MG8), was sown. The vegetation resulting from each of these treatments was monitored with permanent quadrats for a 3-year period, and the hydrological regime of each quadrat location was modeled and quantified. The results showed that seed mixture, timing of sowing, and seeding rate had an initial effect on the vegetation that established. However, by the third year of monitoring there were no significant differences between these treatments, and hydrological regime had become the most important factor in determining the distribution of species. The vegetation was less diverse than predicted from germination tests and decreased in diversity over the monitoring period. It is suggested that this may be a result of the hydrological regime being unsuitable for several of the sown species or due to the extremely high available phosphorus concentration in the soil. This study highlights the need to understand the soil and hydrological conditions of a site before choosing a target community and designing a seed mixture.