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Response of orthopteran diversity to abandonment of semi-natural meadows

Marini, Lorenzo, Fontana, Paolo, Battisti, Andrea, Gaston, Kevin J.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2009 v.132 no.3-4 pp. 232-236
grasslands, Orthoptera, species diversity, abandoned land, temporal variation, land management, mountains, ecological succession, mowing, montane forests, vegetation, botanical composition, shade, agroecosystems, Italy
The response of orthopteran communities to abandonment of extensively managed hay meadows was investigated in an Alpine region. Fifty-five sites in four different successional stages were sampled: (i) mown meadows, (ii) young abandoned meadows, (iii) old abandoned meadows, and (iv) young forests. Mown meadows and young abandoned meadows (3-5 years since the last cut) had the highest, young forests the lowest mean number of orthopteran species. The change in vegetation structure and the shading by woody plants are considered the most important drivers determining the orthopteran diversity response to abandonment. Well-targeted agri-environment schemes are needed to maintain extensive semi-natural hay meadows with the provision of compensation payments to support transitional stages (young and old abandoned meadows). A mowing regime with a supra-annual cycle (e.g. 3-5 years) could be a suitable management practice to reduce direct mortality due to mechanical mowing and to halt forest invasion.