Individual study: The effect of time, seeding and environment on outcomes of calcareous grassland restoration schemes in the North Downs, South Downs, South Wessex Downs, Chilterns and Cotswolds, southern England
Fagan K.C., Pywell R.F., Bullock J.M. & Marrs R.H. (2008) Do restored calcareous grasslands on former arable fields resemble ancient targets? The effect of time, methods and environment on outcomes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45, 1293-1303
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Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland
A randomized, paired site comparison in five areas of southern England (Fagan et al. 2008) found distinct differences in vegetation between restored and ancient chalk/limestone (calcareous) grasslands, even after 60 years. Sites seeded with just grasses remained dominated by a few grass species. Sites allowed to regenerate naturally moved towards the target plant community over time, although success was limited by proximity to ancient grasslands. Some features of restored grassland (such as the proportion of perennial plants) became more like ancient grasslands with increasing age. High soil phosphorus concentration (due to former fertilizer application) was detrimental to restoration. Forty restored grassland sites were randomly selected from all those available, to give equal representation in four age classes and the five areas (North Downs, South Downs, South Wessex Downs, Chilterns, Cotswolds). Sites were one to 103 ha in size. They were restored either by natural regeneration, seeding with grasses, or seeding with a flower-rich seed mix. All sites were grazed and some occasionally mown. Each was paired with an ancient grassland no more than 9.3 km away. Plants were surveyed in ten 0.25 m2 quadrats at each site, in summer 2004, and soil analysed in September 2004.