Measuring the Short-term Success of Grassland Restoration: The Use of Habitat Affinity Indices in Ecological Restoration


E. Déri, email:


Agricultural intensification threatens grasslands worldwide and the restoration of grasslands from arable lands can at least partially counter this threat. We studied grassland restoration by following early successional changes of arthropod assemblages (spiders, Araneae; true bugs, Heteroptera; orthopterans, Orthoptera; and ground beetles, Carabidae) on 1- and 2-year-old restorations using arable lands and native grasslands as two ends of the succession timescale. To examine the changes in species composition among the habitat types, we used habitat affinity indices based on fidelity and/or specificity of the species. We found that the number of species did not differ between habitat types, while species composition changed markedly with time. Species richness was thus not adequate to detect favorable changes after grassland restoration. Habitat affinity indices, on the other hand, were useful to detect compositional changes caused by the increasing numbers of species characteristic of target grasslands as early as the second year after restoration. Habitat affinity indices are easy-to-use, easy-to-interpret measures of restoration success; therefore, we recommend their use as measures complementary to species richness and simple similarity. Our results show that sowing low-diversity seed mixture followed by mowing and grazing can be particularly successful in grassland restoration in time periods as short as 2 years.