Assessing Conservation Action for Substitution of Missing Dynamics on Former Military Training Areas in Central Europe

Authors

  • Anke Jentsch,

    Corresponding author
    1. Disturbance Ecology and Vegetation Dynamics, UFZ—Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, D-04318 Leipzig, Germany
    2. Disturbance Ecology and Vegetation Dynamics, Bayreuth University, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany
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  • Silke Friedrich,

    1. Disturbance Ecology and Vegetation Dynamics, UFZ—Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, D-04318 Leipzig, Germany
    2. Department of Experimental and Systems Ecology, Bielefeld University, Universitaetsstr. 25, D-33615 Bielefeld, Germany
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  • Thomas Steinlein,

    1. Department of Experimental and Systems Ecology, Bielefeld University, Universitaetsstr. 25, D-33615 Bielefeld, Germany
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  • Wolfram Beyschlag,

    1. Department of Experimental and Systems Ecology, Bielefeld University, Universitaetsstr. 25, D-33615 Bielefeld, Germany
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  • Werner Nezadal

    1. Department of Molecular Plant Physiology, Geobotany, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Staudstr. 5, D-91058 Erlangen, Germany
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Address correspondence to A. Jentsch, email anke.jentsch@ufz.de

Abstract

Disproportionately large numbers of threatened and endangered species and unusually high biodiversity have been documented on former military training areas. However, throughout the world, nature protection areas on former military grounds are faced with the dilemma of preserving ecosystems that must change. In central Europe, many of these areas are characterized by dry acidic grasslands on sandy soils. However, these resource-limited ecosystems are faced with two interacting threats: missing disturbance dynamics and increasing atmospheric nitrogen deposition from urban agglomerations. The goal of this study was to assess the effectiveness of conservation action for substitution of missing dynamics. Impacts on plant species assembly, performance of functional groups, soil nutrient availability, and successional trajectory are analyzed. Of particular concern is mimicking beneficial effects of military maneuver on pioneer species such as Corynephorus canescens, which is endangered in many countries. In a controlled field experiment, we manipulated mechanical disturbances representing conservation measures—harrowing, topsoil removal, tilling, and tank driving. Our findings suggest that only topsoil removal and tank driving effectively remove organic material and create self-sustaining vegetation dynamics. Topsoil removal affects both filters in community assembly: the abiotic filter related to soil resources and the biotic filter related to competition between species. We further demonstrate that plant functional groups based on growth form show different rates of recruitment after disturbance with graminoids-dominating initial dynamics. This study provides basic information on effective conservation strategies for dry acidic grasslands on former military training areas.

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