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Reintroduction of grazing management after deforestation of formerly abandoned grassland and its effect on early vegetation changes in the Western Carpathians (Slovakia)

Authors

  • J. Novák,

    1. Department of Grassland Ecosystems and Forage Crops, Faculty of Agrobiology and Food Resources, Slovak University of Agriculture, Nitra, Slovakia
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  • V. Pavlů,

    Corresponding author
    1. Grassland Research Station, Department of Plant Ecology and Weed Science, Crop Research Institute, Liberec, Czech Republic
    2. Department of Ecology, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
    • Department of Grassland Ecosystems and Forage Crops, Faculty of Agrobiology and Food Resources, Slovak University of Agriculture, Nitra, Slovakia
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  • V. Ludvíková

    1. Department of Ecology, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
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Correspondence to: V. Pavlů, Grassland Research Station, Department of Plant Ecology and Weed Science, Crop Research Institute, Rolnická 6, CZ-460 11, Liberec, Czech Republic.

E-mail: pavlu@vurv.cz

Abstract

Although the process of reforestation of grassland has been widely studied in Europe, little is known about the effect of deforestation on grassland development. Thus, the specific objective of this study was to evaluate early changes in plant species composition, functional group, yield and biomass quality after deforestation of long-term abandoned pastures. The experiment was established immediately after deforestation on sparse herbaceous vegetation (mean initial cover 27%) with the following treatments: grazing management only (G0), cutting and grazing aftermath (CG), grazing after seeding of grassland mixture (GS), grazing after a burning treatment in which branches were burned after deforestation (GB) and unmanaged control (U). Very rapid recovery of bare ground by germination and/or sprouting of grassland species was similar under all types of grazing management. Total plant species richness increased in all managed treatments except GB. Similarities according to redundancy analyses in plant species composition were found among G0, CG and GB treatments, especially for forbs with correlated rosette or creeping growth. The woody species, tall grasses and tall forbs had higher abundance in the U treatment. The restoration of grassland following deforestation of formerly reforested grassland area by grazing management was a relatively fast process, and swards were created after 3 years. The highest biomass yield was observed under treatments GS and GB. Forage quality of all managed treatments was sufficient for the demands of beef cattle grazing. However, for subsequent grassland preservation, some type of grazing management is necessary to prevent reforestation, which can occur immediately after deforestation in unmanaged places.

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