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The impact of grazing absence in inland saline vegetation – a case study from Slovakia

Dítětová, Zuzana, Dítě, Daniel, Eliáš, Pavol, Galvánek, Dobromil
Biologia 2016 v.71 no.9 pp. 980-988
Elymus repens subsp. repens, Hordeum, case studies, drainage, field experimentation, grasslands, grazing, habitats, halophytes, sheep, species diversity, Slovakia
Inland saline habitats of the Pannonian Lowland are highly threatened by drainage and lack of regular management, especially on their northern distribution limit. We studied the impact of abandonment on the dynamics and survival of saline vegetation through a 4-year field experiment on permanent plots in SW Slovakia (the northern part of the Pannonian Lowland). The examined grassland, alliance of Puccinellion limosae was grazed by sheep. Our results unambiguously confirmed that inland saline vegetation responds to the cessation of such natural disturbance very quickly. Species richness and number of halophytes in the scale of 0.01 m² decreased by half already two years after the abandonment. The most obliged species to grazing was Hordeum geniculatum. This obligate halophyte dependent on disturbance has markedly disappeared on the non-grazed plots, while Elytrigia repens expanded. Moderate grazing is an important requirement for maintenance of halophytic vegetation.