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Keywords:

  • abandonment;
  • bryophyte;
  • grazing;
  • Juniperus communis;
  • peatland;
  • rich fen;
  • species richness

Removal of shrubs and trees is an important management and restoration practice to promote openness and light-dependent vegetation in fens, especially as tree cover is increasing in previously open wetlands. The effects of woody vegetation removal on target species have been poorly documented in wetlands up to now. In this study, I investigated the effect of tree and shrub removal (especially of Juniperus communis) on the target vegetation in a partly overgrown and degraded grazed rich fen after 6 years. I also tested whether additional intensified management by mowing could promote initial recovery. Shrub removal resulted in a rapid recovery of species-rich fen vegetation such that after 6 years brown moss cover more than tripled and target species richness doubled and became similar to values of a reference area in a favorable conservation status. Additional mowing resulted in a much higher abundance of the target rich fen vascular plants. The reasons for the success at this site may be the proximity to well-developed rich fen vegetation, presence of cattle that dispersed diaspores, and presence of bare, colonizable substrate. Thus, it may be more beneficial to restore and expand already existing sites in a partly favorable status than to restore severely deteriorated sites. Extensive management by woody vegetation removal may be an alternative method to maintain high conservation values of open mires and other wetlands, where grazing or mowing is not necessary or feasible to meet future needs in response to overgrowth caused by global warming.