Action

Action Synopsis: Soil Fertility About Actions

Restore or create low input grasslands

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    53%
  • Certainty
    59%
  • Harms
    32%

Study locations

Key messages

One randomized, replicated trial in the Netherlands and one controlled trial from France found that restoring grasslands increased the diversity of soil animals. One trial also found higher microbial biomass, activity and carbon under grassland.

SOIL TYPES COVERED: sandy-loam, silty.

 

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A controlled experiment from 1968 to 2002 on silty soil in France (Plassart et al. 2008) found greater microbial biomass under permanent grassland (557 μg C/g) compared to arable management (179 μg C/g). Fungal diversity increased by 2.3 to 6.4 times under grassland compared to arable management. Total carbon was highest under permanent (33.3 g/kg) followed by temporary (19.7 g/kg) then restored grassland (18.1 g/kg), compared to arable management (9.5 g/kg). Microbial activity, or the breakdown of carbon, was greater as grassland aged, with decomposed carbon ranging from 2.4% (of total carbon measured) under arable cropping to 5.6% in older temporary grassland. Treatments included: one long-term arable field (> 10 years of wheat Triticum aestivum, maize Zea mays, flax Linum usitatissimum or beetroot Beta vulgaris), one long-term grassland (> 25 years of pasture), two temporary grassland (previously had 2 years of wheat-maize rotations), and three restored grassland fields (re-established after at least eight years of cropping). The six permanent, temporary and restored grasslands were implanted with perennial ryegrass Lolium perenne and clover Trifolium spp. several times throughout the experiment. Each field was divided into three 2 x 40 m plots and soils were sampled in each plot to 10 cm depth.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A randomized, replicated experiment in 2001-2003 on sandy-loam in the Netherlands (Postma-Blaauw et al. 2012) found that restoring arable land to grassland increased the diversity of soil animals. There was a higher diversity of bacteria (68 DNA bands per experimental plot), nematodes (28 genera per experimental plot), earthworms (3 species per experimental plot), potworms (4 species) and predatory mites (10 species) in new grassland than new arable land (65 DNA bands, 21 genera, 0 species, 4 species, and 4 species respectively). There were four experimental systems: long-term grassland (dominant species included fescue Festuca rubra, velvet grass Holcus lanatus, sweet vernal grass Anthoxanthum oderatum, sorrel Rumex acetosa, and buttercup Ranunculus spp.), new grassland, long-term and new arable land (an oat Avena sativa, maize Zea mays, barley Hordeum vulgare, potato Solanum tuberosum rotation). There were three replicates of 10 x 12 m field plots. Soil samples were taken to 10 cm depth.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Key, G., Whitfield, M., Dicks, L.V., Sutherland, W.J. & Bardgett, R.D. (2020) Enhancing Soil Fertility. Pages 613-634 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

 

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Soil Fertility

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Soil Fertility

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 18

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.


Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust