The Establishment and Maintenance of a Species-Rich Grassland on a Reclaimed Opencast Coal Site



We conducted an experiment with the dual aims of (1) examining the feasibility of establishing a species-rich grassland using a commercially available grass and wild-flower seed mixture and (2) examining the effects of different defoliation and fertilizer managements on the productivity, species richness, diversity, and composition of a species-rich grassland established on a site reclaimed after opencast coal mining. The use of the seed mixture successfully established a sward of some 18–25 species per square meter. The species composition was enriched to some extent by recruitment of unsown species, principally from the soil seed bank. Hay-type defoliation management produced greater dry matter yield and species richness than grazing defoliation, but grazing defoliation produced greater species diversity. Fertilizer application had no significant effect on dry matter production but reduced species diversity. Ordination analysis revealed that both defoliation and fertilizer management significantly affected species composition. The response obtained by individual species was explicable largely by their comparative biology.