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Near‐natural methods promote restoration of species‐rich grassland vegetation—revisiting a road verge trial after 9 years

Auestad, Inger, Rydgren, Knut, Austad, Ingvild
Restoration ecology 2016 v.24 no.3 pp. 381-389
field experimentation, germplasm regeneration, grasslands, habitats, hay, land restoration, natural regeneration, seed dispersal, seed mixtures, sowing, species diversity, temporal variation
The present loss of species‐rich grasslands makes it vital to restore these valuable habitat types, including novel habitat variants such as road verges. Due to the lack of knowledge on long‐term outcomes of restoration initiatives, well‐designed studies comparing different restoration methods are needed. In this study, we examined fine‐scale vegetation recovery patterns over 9 years in a field experiment with several near‐natural restoration methods (adding local seed mixtures, transferring hay from local grasslands using hard or light raking, and natural regeneration) in a road verge. We compared this to standard revegetation (hydroseeding species‐poor commercial seed mixtures). We found major temporal changes in vegetation restored by local seed or hay transfer, before it gradually became more similar to the donor grasslands and seed mixtures, which served as references for the experiment. Natural (spontaneous) regeneration with seed dispersal from surroundings gave similar results, whereas areas revegetated using standard methods became more dissimilar to the reference sites during the study period. The main variation in species composition reflected the contrast between local donor grasslands and seed mixtures and the species‐poor early successional grasslands. We conclude that near‐natural methods (hay transfer and seeding) successfully restored species‐rich grassland, including road verges. This study underlines the importance of comparing several treatments over a sufficiently long period to assess their success in restoring species‐rich grassland.