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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Topsoil removal from former agricultural sites results in increasing similarity to target plant communities in the Netherlands

Published source details

Verhagen R., Klooker J. & Bakker J.P. (2001) Restoration success of low-production plant communities on former agricultural soils after topsoil removal. Applied Vegetation Science, 4, 75-82

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Restore or create traditional water meadows Farmland Conservation

A replicated site comparison study of former arable and pasture fields in the Netherlands (Verhagen et al. 2001) found that topsoil removal aided wet meadow restoration. Topsoil removal resulted in increasing similarity (up to 29%) to five target communities: small sedge Caricion nigrae community, Ericion tetralicis heathland and three nutrient-poor grassland communities (Junco-Molinion, Nardo-Galion saxatilis and Thero-Airio). Nutrient poor fen communities and a heathland community (Calluno-Genistion pilosae) did not establish. Target species increased steadily over time, but 50-100% were still missing from target communities after nine years. Environmental conditions were suitable or within the range for establishment for all communities, apart from two grassland communities; Thero-Airion and Junco-Molinion grasslands (only one site suitable for each). Local species pools were good for all but nutrient-poor fen communities. Topsoil was removed (to depths up to 50 cm in 1989-1995) from eight sites. Vegetation was monitored (July-August) annually at 3-12 plots (2 x 2 m) at each site from 1993 to 1995 until 1998. Vegetation and environmental conditions were compared to five reference plots for each community.