Restoring species-rich grassland: principles and techniques
Pywell, R. F., Woodcock, B., Tallowin, J. B., Mortimer, S. R. and Bullock, J. M. (2012) Restoring species-rich grassland: principles and techniques. Aspects of Applied Biology, 115. pp. 11-21. ISSN 0265-1491
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Grassland restoration is the dominant activity funded by agri-environment schemes (AES). However, the re-instatement of biodiversity and ecosystem services is limited by a number of severe abiotic and biotic constraints resulting from previous agricultural management. These appear to be less severe on ex-arable sites compared with permanent grassland. We report findings of a large research programme into practical solutions to these constraints. The key abiotic constraint was high residual soil fertility, particularly phosphorus. This can most easily be addressed by targeting of sites of low nutrient status. The chief biotic constraints were lack of propagules of desirable species and suitable sites for their establishment. Addition of seed mixtures or green hay to gaps created by either mechanical disturbance or herbicide was the most effective means of overcoming these factors. Finally, manipulation of biotic interactions, including hemiparasitic plants to reduce competition from grasses and control of mollusc herbivory of sown species, significantly improved the effectiveness of these techniques.