In semi-natural grassland restoration or creation projects, efficacy of introduction of soil communities by incorporating soil material from a donor site as a strategy to potentially enhance restoration success has received little investigation. In a 5-year experiment at the village of Lievelde (52°01′N, 5°36′E, the Netherlands) on a former arable field, effects of spreading hay and soil (alone and combined), and transplanting of turfs on plant and soil nematode community development were investigated.
In the winter of 2000-2001, topsoil (50 cm depth) was removed down to the mineral subsoil. In August 2001, treatments (randomized block design, five replicate 5 x 5 m plots/treatment) were applied:
1) spreading hay (fresh harvested shoots and seed capsules;
2) spreading soil;
3) spreading soil + hay;
4) transplanting turfs (containing soil and vegetation);
5) control (no treatment).
Material for the treatments was obtained from a species-rich fen grassland 250 m away. Percent cover of each vascular plant species was recorded in each plot annually (August 2003 to August 2006). In August 2003 and 2005, soil samples were taken and analysed, in the latter samples nematodes were extracted and allocated to feeding groups.
No differences in nematode abundance were apparent among treatments for any of the feeding groups.
Plots with hay and hay + soil addition had higher abundance of grasses and other monocots but the plant community gradually converged to that of the control after 2005. Spreading soil alone did not have beneficial effects in achieving the desired fen meadow community. Species composition of turfs became less similar to that of the donor site over time and most plants did not spread beyond the turf. No topsoil removal plots were dominated by ruderal and nitrophilous species, a community quite different from other treatments and most different to the donor site.