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Beneficial effects of restoration practices can be thwarted by climate extremes

Maccherini, Simona, Bacaro, Giovanni, Marignani, Michela
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.626 pp. 851-859
botanical composition, chalk grasslands, climate change, climatic factors, ecosystems, grazing, indigenous species, monitoring, society, sowing, synanthropes, temperature, Italy, Mediterranean region
The impacts of climate extremes on species, communities and ecosystems have become critical concerns to science and society. Under a changing climate, how restoration outcomes are affected by extreme climate variables is a largely unknown topic. We analyzed the effects of experimental factors (grazing and sowing of native species), extreme climate events (intense precipitation and extreme temperatures indexes) and their combination on the restoration progress of a dry, calcareous grassland in Tuscany (Italy) with a 1 year before/15 years continuous annual monitoring after, control/impact (BACI) experiment. Grazing had a beneficial effect on the diversity of the grassland, while sowing had a limited impact. The climatic index that most affected the entire plant community composition was the number of very heavy precipitation days. The interaction of grazing and extreme climatic indexes had a significant detrimental effect on restoration outcomes, increasing the cover of synanthropic and Cosmopolitan-Subcosmopolitan generalist species and decreasing the cover of more valuable species such endemic species. In the richest grazed plots, species richness showed a lower sensitivity to the average precipitation per wet day but in grazed site, restoration outcomes can be negatively influenced by the intensification of precipitation and temperature extremes. In a context of progressive tropicalization of the Mediterranean area, to assist managers setting achievable restoration goals, restoration practitioners should consider that climate extremes might interfere with the beneficial effects of restoration practices.