Study

The effects of environmental factors on components and attributes of a Mediterranean grassland

  • Published source details Pagnotta M.A., Snaydon R.W. & Cocks P.S. (1997) The effects of environmental factors on components and attributes of a Mediterranean grassland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 34, 29-42.

Summary

As a consequence of historic and contemporary overgrazing, many west Asian grasslands are severely degraded. The situation is particularly acute in parts of Syria. This 2-year study looked at various environmental factors influencing abundance and seed production of various plant species in a Syrian grassland, and assessed if exclusion of sheep promoted vegetation recovery.

Study area: The study was undertaken at Tel Hadya (headquarters of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas – ICARDA), 30 km south of Aleppo city (36º01’N, 36º56’E). The area comprised natural legume- and grass-rich pasture (127 species recorded, mostly annuals, including 56 legumes and 21 grasses). The most common legumes were woolly clover Trifolium tomentosum, starry clover T.stellatum and field clover T.campestre, most common grasses were three oat-grass Avena and three brome Bromus species.

Six treatments applied to experimental plots:

i) pre-existing conditions (control);

ii) phosphate added (0 or 25 kg/ha P2O5);

iii) low (0.8) or high grazing intensity (1.7 sheep/ha);

iv) pre-existing stone cover (low or high);

v) amended stone cover (addition or removal of stones to 20 or 80% stone cover);

vi) protected or not protected from grazing.


Measurements: At various times during the two growing seasons (1988-89 and 1989-90) the following were recorded: biomass, yield (harvested at the end of each growing season), seed bank (at the end of 1989-90 season), stone weight and volume, bare soil and ground cover, plant density, number of flowers, flowering time and seed size. Chemical analysis of various soil properties (available phosphorous, total nitrogen, organic matter, calcium carbonate and pH) was also undertaken.

Initial growing conditions (a measured by biomass) most affected subsequent plant performance, although less so in year 2. Organic matter, nitrogen and soil depth were all greatest where initial biomass was highest. In areas with greater pre-existing stone cover, growth was reduced (probably because greater stone cover was associated with shallower soils and lower soil fertility). However, experimental addition of stones increased productivity, probably as they protected vegetation from sheep grazing.

The higher sheep stocking rate clearly reduced biomass production of most plant species (M. coronata and T. tomentosum however increased, probably due to their prostrate growth habit), whilst phosphate addition increased it. Protection from sheep-grazing led to increased plant cover with improved performance of most species, but different species responded in different ways.


Note: If using or referring to this published study please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-8901%28199702%2934%3A1%3C29%3ATEOEFO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 18

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.


Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust