Indexed on: 13 Feb '08Published on: 13 Feb '08Published in: Biodiversity and Conservation
After abandonment, dry grassland (Festuco-Brometea) areas decline due to gradual overgrowing by woody species and the expansion of perennial tall grass species. Dry grassland vegetation was formed by extensive livestock grazing, thus grazing is considered one of the most natural methods for managing this type of vegetation. Six years after introducing low-intensity sheep and goat grazing in seven nature reserves in Prague (Czech Republic), the following impact of this management on dry grassland vegetation was observed: The cover of expansive woody species, particularly Ligustrum vulgare, and to a smaller extent Cornus sanguinea and Prunus spinosa declined. In addition, a significant, long-term declining trend of the expansive species Arrhenatherum elatius was also observed. Also the cover of Pimpinella saxifraga and Allium senescens declined significantly with regard to statistical evaluation. On the contrary, the cover of Achillea millefolium, Centaurea stoebe, Securigera varia, Elytrigia repens, Erysimum crepidifolium, Falcaria vulgaris, Fallopia convolvulus and Verbascum lychnitis increased. The cover of species characteristic of dry grasslands (Festuco-Brometea) increased significantly. No changes were observed in the number and cover of the Red List species. In addition, the presence of nitrophilous and ruderal species increased. Species diversity also significantly increased. From our findings we can conclude that managing dry grasslands with low-intensity grazing can help to keep dry grassland vegetation in good condition and conserve its plant diversity.