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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Topsoil removal and introduction of target species in plant material aids restoration of fen grasslands in northern Germany

Published source details

Rasran L., Vogt K. & Jensen K. (2007) Effects of topsoil removal, seed transfer with plant material and moderate grazing on restoration of riparian fen grasslands. Applied Vegetation Science, 10, 451-460


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

Use grazing to maintain or restore disturbance Peatland Conservation

A replicated, paired, controlled study in 2001–2005 in a degraded fen meadow in Germany (Rasran et al. 2007) reported that grazing had no effect on the abundance of bog/fen-characteristic plants. This result is not based on a test of statistical significance. After five years, bog/fen-characteristic plants occurred in 0–3% of quadrats with 0–3% cover in both grazed and ungrazed plots. Variation between plots was related to topsoil stripping rather than grazing. In 2001, sixteen 6 x 6 m plots were established, in four blocks of four, in a drained, abandoned, nutrient-enriched fen meadow. Eight plots (two plots/block) were grazed by cattle (1.5 cattle/ha). The other eight plots were fenced to exclude cattle. None of these plots were sown with hay, but topsoil was stripped from four grazed and four ungrazed plots at the start of the experiment. Between 2002 and 2005, vegetation cover was estimated in 16 permanent 1 m2 quadrats/plot.

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

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

A replicated, paired, controlled study in 2001–2005 in a degraded fen meadow in Germany (Rasran et al. 2007) reported that topsoil removal increased the abundance of bog/fen characteristic plants. The results are not based on tests of statistical significance. Five years following topsoil stripping, bog- and fen-characteristic plants occurred in up to 3% of quadrats with up to 3% cover/plot. Peatland-characteristic plants were not present in unstripped plots. In 2001, sixteen 6 x 6 m plots (in four blocks of four) were established in a drained, abandoned, nutrient-enriched fen meadow. Topsoil (30 cm depth) was stripped from eight plots but left on the others. None of these plots were sown with hay, but four stripped and four unstripped plots were fenced to exclude cattle. Between 2002 and 2005, vegetation cover was estimated in 16 permanent 1 m2 quadrats/plot.

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

Introduce seeds of peatland herbs Peatland Conservation

A replicated, paired, controlled study in 2001–2005 in a degraded fen meadow in Germany (Rasran et al. 2007) found that in plots spread with hay from nearby fens, peatland-characteristic plants were more abundant than in plots without added hay. Over five years following hay addition, peatland-characteristic plants occurred in up to 28% of quadrats with up to 12% cover in each plot. In plots without added hay, peatland-characteristic plants occurred in <5% of quadrats with negligible cover. Amongst plots with added hay, abundance and cover were higher in those that had their topsoil removed prior to hay addition, but grazing had no additional effect (reported as a statistical model result). In 2001, thirty-two 6 x 6 m plots (in four blocks of eight) were established in a drained, abandoned, nutrient-enriched fen meadow. Freshly cut, seed-rich hay from an adjacent fen was added to 16 of the 32 plots. Additionally, four plots with hay and four plots without received each of the following treatments: topsoil stripping (30 cm depth) before hay addition, grazing (open to cattle) after hay addition, topsoil stripping plus grazing, or neither topsoil stripping nor grazing. Annually between 2002 and 2005, cover of every plant species was estimated in each plot, in 16 permanent 1 m2 quadrats.

(Summarised by Nigel Taylor)

Restore or create traditional water meadows Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled study in a grazed fen area in northern Germany (Rasran et al. 2007) found that wet meadow species increased and agri­cultural grassland species decreased following topsoil removal and hay transfer. Target species reached their maximum in the second year of the experiment where topsoil had been removed and hay transferred. Where topsoil had been removed but no hay introduced, the species increased slowly over four years. Most species transferred with the hay were only present in areas with removed topsoil, not on intact soil. Grazing had minimal effects, but did result in a significant increase of cumulative frequency of wet meadow species. Four blocks (12 x 24 m) were established that each combined three treatments: moderate grazing (yes/no), topsoil removal (yes/no; to a depth of 30 cm) and hay transfer from a species-rich fen meadow (yes/no; layer of 1-3 cm). Plant cover and species dominance was sampled in 16 permanent squares (1 m²) within each subplot in each combination of treatments in 2002-2005. Ten soil seed bank samples were taken from each plot in 2002.

 

Reduce grazing intensity on grassland (including seasonal removal of livestock) Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled study in a grazed fen area in northern Germany (Rasran et al. 2007) investigated the effects of reduced grazing, topsoil removal and hay transfer on plant species diversity and abundance and found that grazing had minimal effects, but did result in a significant increase of cumulative frequency of wet meadow plant species. Four blocks (12 x 24 m) were established that each combined three treatments: moderate grazing (yes/no), topsoil removal (yes/no; to a depth of 30 cm) and hay transfer from a species-rich fen meadow (yes/no; layer of 1-3 cm). Plant cover and species dominance was sampled in 16 permanent squares (1 m²) within each subplot in each combination of treatments in 2002-2005. Ten soil seed bank samples were taken from each plot in 2002.