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Interactions between plant and insect diversity in the restoration of lowland calcareous grasslands in southern Britain

Mortimer, Simon R., Hollier, John A., Brown, Valerie K.
Applied vegetation science 1998 v.1 no.1 pp. 101-114
life cycle (organisms), land restoration, species diversity, plant communities, insects, biodiversity, botanical composition, natural resource management, land use, soil fertility, seed dispersal
The lowland calcareous grasslands of northwestern Europe are highly prized by ecologists and conservationists as a result of the diversity of their plant and invertebrate communities. Large areas of such grasslands have been lost this century as a result of changes in agricultural land use. Recent changes in agricultural policies, in particular the introduction of agri‐environmental incentive schemes, have resulted in an increasing area being managed for the restoration of these communities. This paper reviews the management techniques employed in the restoration of lowland calcareous grasslands and the factors that govern their success. Constraints on the enhancement of the plant diversity of restoration sites include high soil fertility and the presence of undesirable species in the soil seed bank. However, it is thought that the primary constraint is the availability of propagules from which new populations can be established. Similarly, the dispersal mode and ability of insect species is likely to be the major factor limiting the enhancement of insect diversity. Evaluation of the success of restoration management usually involves monitoring changes in the plant community. However, as a result of their short life‐cycles and sensitivity to small‐scale environmental conditions, insects may respond more rapidly to changes resulting from restoration management and therefore provide better indicators of success. With the exception of a few high‐profile butterfly species, the use of insects as indicator taxa has largely been neglected in terrestrial systems. This paper illustrates their potential use with reference to lowland calcareous grasslands in southern Britain.