Effects of simulated grazing on open perennial sand grassland
We studied biomass and species composition changes of open perennial sand grassland (Festucetum vaginatae) as response to different levels of simulated grazing pressures. We conducted a factorial micro-plot field experiment on previously grazed grassland that has been abandoned for a long time. In a two-way factorial design of 12 treatments x 8 repeats, we performed clipping (twice a year for three years) and litter treatments (removing and adding litter once at the beginning of the experiment) to simulate components of grazing, namely the biomass removal and the reduction of the litter accumulation. We used field spectroscopy and visual canopy cover estimation to measure the effects on the amount of the above-ground green biomass and on the vegetation composition.
Litter treatments affected vegetation composition slightly during the experiment. We found that clipping decreases the canopy cover of Festuca vaginata. However, compensation occurred in case of the above-ground biomass of the matrix species due to moderate clipping. Both moderate and heavy clipping increased the number of species in the plots. Heavy clipping had a strong negative effect on the biomass and canopy cover of Festuca vaginata, and in contrast with moderate clipping it changed the gap structure of the community. It increased the size of the gaps and the abundance of the gap species as well. Our results show that moderate grazing pressure has favourable effect on the open perennial sand grassland community in terms of species density while it does not cause degradation of the matrix species.
KeywordsClipping Compensatory growth Festucetum vaginatae Field spectroscopy Litter effects
Normalized Differential Vegetation Index
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