• flood meadows;
  • grassland restoration;
  • hay transfer;
  • plant material transfer;
  • population dynamics;
  • soil seed bank;
  • spatial autocorrelation

The main objective of this study was to analyze whether plant material transfer is a suitable approach for establishing plant populations with spatial patterns and population structures resembling those of remnant populations. We studied pattern formation and population characteristics in three remnant and two restored populations of the biennial plant species Arabis nemorensis in the upper Rhine valley in southwestern Germany over a period of 2 years. We investigated spatial patterns of seedlings, juveniles, and adults as well as the small-scale horizontal and vertical distribution of seeds in the soil, followed the fate of individual plants and recorded structural habitat parameters such as vegetation and litter cover. Population dynamics differed between the study sites, but there was no pronounced difference between restored and remnant sites. Seedlings, juveniles, and adults as well as seeds in the seed bank showed aggregated spatial patterns on all study sites, with positive autocorrelation on a scale of 20–60 cm. Within sites, patterns remained approximately stable through time. Restored sites experienced rapid seed bank formation as a result of the restoration measures. Our results suggest that the restoration measures were not only successful in transferring the target species but also triggered rapid formation of spatially structured populations that, years after restoration, closely resembled those of remnant sites.