, Volume 74, Issue 4, pp 385–394 | Cite as

Elytrigia repens co-occurs with glycophytes rather than characteristic halophytes in low-growing salt meadows on the southern Baltic Sea coast

  • Ricarda PätschEmail author
  • Ines Bruchmann
  • Jenny Schellenberg
  • Anke Meisert
  • Erwin Bergmeier
Original Article


Baltic salt meadows of the supralittoral are recognizable by a low vegetation structure of perennial plants, distinct zonation, and the presence of characteristic species of high ecological value. This semi-natural, grazing-dependent vegetation is declining in overall distribution and habitat quality. Abiotic and biotic habitat changes as well as the loss of characteristic species and a simultaneous increase of Elytrigia repens are particularly concerning. We hypothesize that, if E. repens increases due to abandonment or other causes, characteristic salt-meadow species will be affected adversely. To investigate the floristic changes and salt meadow species loss over a wide area, we used a dataset of salt meadow plots from along the southern Baltic Sea coast, partitioned by different cover ranges of E. repens. Between these groups, we compared the abundance and frequency of characteristic salt meadow species. We additionally tested (Mann-Whitney-U test) relevant structural factors, plot-based indicator values and strategy types. E. repens indicated low incidence of characteristic salt-meadow species. Soil moisture, salinity and light availability were lower where E. repens occurred; mean vegetation height was increased. Five species co-occurred with Elytrigia repens (Achillea millefolium, Holcus lanatus, Poa pratensis, Schedonorus arundinaceus, Trifolium repens), showing simultaneously a low relative abundance in the remaining dataset. We discuss our findings in terms of frequently observed vegetation changes in the light of salt meadow abandonment. In conclusion, we draw up an easy-to-use method for monitoring salt-meadow medium-term dynamics for applied nature conservation purposes.


Competitive strategy Couch grass Grass encroachment Salt-meadow management Nature conservation 



Characteristic salt-meadow species


Non-metric multidimensional scaling



Support by Agnieszka Piernik in selecting suitable research areas in Poland and for obtaining fieldwork permissions is gratefully acknowledged. Thorsten Joseph provided irreplaceable help during field work, Inga Schmiedel gave constructive advice and Hardy Küster assisted in proofreading the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We (all authors) declare, that we have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11756_2019_195_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (180 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 180 kb)


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Copyright information

© Plant Science and Biodiversity Centre, Slovak Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and ChemistryUniversity of HildesheimHildesheimGermany
  2. 2.Department of Vegetation and Phytodiversity AnalysisUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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