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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Restoration of wet fen meadows by topsoil removal: vegetation development and germination biology of fen species

Published source details

Patzelt A., Wild U. & Pfadenhauer J. (2001) Restoration of wet fen meadows by topsoil removal: vegetation development and germination biology of fen species. Restoration Ecology, 9, 127-136


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Remove upper layer of peat/soil (without planting) Peatland Conservation

A study in 1991–1997 in a degraded fen meadow in Germany (Patzelt et al. 2001) reported that a plant community developed following topsoil removal, but its composition depended on the depth of soil removed. In plots with 40–60 cm of soil removed, the community contained wetland-characteristic herbs and tall rush species after six years. In plots with 20 cm of soil removed, species from drier grasslands were more abundant. All data were reported as a graphical analysis. The results were not tested for statistical significance. In February 1991, topsoil was removed from three 4,500 m2 plots in a fen meadow historically used for agriculture. A different depth of soil was removed from each plot: 20, 40 or 60 cm. None of these plots were sown with hay. From 1992 to 1997, vegetation cover was estimated annually in five 4 m2 quadrats/plot.

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

Introduce seeds of peatland herbs Peatland Conservation

A controlled, before-and-after study in 1991–1997 in a degraded fen meadow in Germany (Patzelt et al. 2001) reported that adding seed-rich hay, after removing topsoil, ensured that plots developed wetland-characteristic plant communities. Over six years, plots with hay added after removal of 20–40 cm of topsoil developed cover of fen-characteristic herbs, including sedge Carex spp. and purple moor grass Molinia caerulea. Plots with hay added after removal of 60 cm of topsoil developed cover of wetland-characteristic herbs (particularly rushes) in addition to fen-characteristic species. Plant communities in plots without added hay showed similar changes to those with hay when 40–60 cm of topsoil was removed, but developed cover of species from drier grasslands when 20 cm of topsoil was removed. All data were reported as a graphical analysis. The results were not tested for statistical significance. In February 1991, six 4,500 m2 plots in a historically farmed fen meadow were stripped of topsoil (to 20, 40 or 60 cm depth). Hay was cut from nearby fens and spread onto three of the plots (one stripped to each depth). From 1992 to 1997, vegetation cover was recorded annually in five 4 m2 quadrats/plot.

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

Restore or create traditional water meadows Farmland Conservation

A controlled study in 1992-1997 of wet fen meadows in southern Germany (Patzelt et al. 2001) found that topsoil removal and the introduction of target species aided meadow restoration. The removal of the nutrient-rich topsoil (to depths of 20 cm, 40 cm or 60 cm) and introduction of target species in hay cut from four fen meadows (layer 5-10 cm thick) resulted in successful establishment of 57 fen meadow plant species over six years, including 13 regional Red List species. The total cover of hay species from the donor areas reached up to 70% on plots where 20 cm of topsoil was removed, 30% when 40 cm was removed and 5% on the 60 cm removal plots. Plots without hay were established for each level of topsoil removal as controls for comparison. Monitoring of vegetation was carried out several times each year on permanent 4 m² plots.