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Keywords:

  • Local seed rain;
  • Permanent plot;
  • Species diversity;
  • Species pool;
  • Time series;
  • Vegetation succession
  • Tutin et al. (1964-1980)

Abstract. A small-scale restoration experiment concerning a species-rich calcareous grassland was conducted over a 7-yr period. 20 yr of abandonment (1971-1990) resulted in both a strong reduction of the number of species and an absolute dominance of the shrub Crataegus monogyna and the grass Brachypodium pinnatum - which contributed 98% of the above-ground herb phytomass. The plot (3 m x 6 m) was cleared in September 1990 and thereafter yearly mown in autumn. Small soil seed bank samples were taken immediately after clearing and again in the autumn of 1996. The inner part of the plot showed a reduced soil seed bank compared to the plot underneath the vegetation outside the plot in 1990. Six years later an increased number of seeds in the soil in this inside area could be recorded mainly in the upper soil layer, although the amount was only 40% compared to the outside or control area. Ca. 20% of the species present in the restored vegetation were recorded in seed traps during the main seed dispersal period in 1997. Restoration of high species richness in the plot was a fast process during the first few years: from seven species in 1990 towards 39 three years later. This was significantly faster than the restoration process of the calcareous grassland at the same slope 20 yr earlier. This was probably due to the increased size of the community species pool at the site as a result of appropriate management during the last decades. Relative species number increase was highest at the largest scale during this experiment, viz. at the total plot area.

The success of restoration of species-rich, dry grassland vegetation largely depends on the interaction between several conditions, e.g. seed availability, either originating from the seed rain or soil seed bank, favourable germination conditions and a successful development to a mature, seed producing individual. Germination and establishment strongly depend on suitable vegetation structure as a result of sustainable management.