Action: Maintain wood pasture and parkland
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- A randomized, replicated, controlled trial in Sweden found that annual mowing maintained the highest number of plant species on wood pasture.
Wood pastures are open, low-intensity livestock-grazed woodlands with grassland, often of high conservation value. Due to abandonment or agricultural reversion, they have declined greatly in Europe. This intervention may involve restoring or maintaining wood pasture habitats.
See also ‘Restore or create wood pasture’ for studies on the restoration or establishment of wood pastures.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A long-term randomized, replicated, controlled trial from 1972 to 1986 on a traditionally managed wood meadow in Sweden (Hansson & Fogelfors 2000) found that mowing or grazing were needed to preserve the characteristic flora, with annual mowing maintaining the greatest number of plant species. Seven management regimes were compared, including mowing, grazing, burning, removing woody vegetation and abandonment, with two replicates for each treatment. The number of plant species increased significantly on plots mown every year, and remained stable on grazed plots. Reducing the frequency of mowing to every third year did not significantly reduce species richness. Periodic mowing may therefore be a way to preserve wood meadow flora when management resources are limited. Other treatments reduced species richness over time and plots became either dominated by trees (under abandonment) or dominated by a few tall herbs and/or grasses. Treatments were applied in 5 x 20 m plots from 1972 to 1986 with two replicates. Percentage cover of plant species was assessed in five or six 1 m2 subplots/plot in 1972, 1980 and 1986.