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Vegetation change in acidic dry grasslands in Moravia (Czech Republic) over three decades: Slow decrease in habitat quality after grazing cessation



Rok publikování 2023
Druh Článek v odborném periodiku
Časopis / Zdroj Applied Vegetation Science
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Přírodovědecká fakulta

Klíčová slova abandonment; conservation management; dry grassland; heathland; plant diversity; protected area; species composition; species richness; vascular plants; vegetation change; vegetation plot; vegetation resurvey
Popis Aims Shallow soils on acidic bedrock in dry areas of Central Europe support dry grasslands and heathlands that were formerly used as extensive pastures. These habitats are of high conservation value, but their abandonment in the 20th century triggered slow natural succession that poses a threat to specialized plant species. We asked how this vegetation and its plant diversity have changed over the past three decades and whether protected areas have positively affected habitat quality. Location Southwestern and central Moravia, Czech Republic. Methods In 2018–2019, we resurveyed 94 vegetation plots first sampled in 1986–1991 at 47 acidic dry grassland and heathland sites. We compared the number of all vascular plant species, Red List species and alien species per plot using parametric and non-parametric tests, life-form spectra using the chi-square test, species composition using detrended correspondence analysis, and indicator values using a permutation test. We also compared these changes between sites within and outside protected areas. Results Vegetation changes over the past three decades have been relatively small. However, we detected a decrease in total species richness, the number of Red List species and the number of characteristic species of dry grasslands. Neophytes were infrequent, while archaeophytes increased slightly. The competitive tall grass Arrhenatherum elatius, annual species and young woody plants increased in abundance or newly established at many sites. Indicator values did not change except for a slight increase in nutrient values. These negative trends occurred both within and outside protected areas but were more pronounced outside. Conclusions Formerly grazed acidic dry grasslands and heathlands in Moravia are slowly losing habitat specialists, including threatened plant species, and are increasingly dominated by Arrhenatherum elatius. Conservation management, especially cutting in protected areas, slows down the negative trends of decline in plant diversity and habitat quality but is insufficient to halt these processes completely.
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