Rapid response of vascular plants and insects to restoration of montane grasslands

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Title: Rapid response of vascular plants and insects to restoration of montane grasslands
Authors: Helbing, Felix
Fartmann, Thomas
Morkel, Carsten
Poniatowski, Dominik
ORCID of the author: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0623-9827
Abstract: Introduction: Industrialization has ushered in massive changes in agriculture. Particularly in low mountain ranges, large-scale afforestation with Norway spruce on traditionally managed, semi-natural grasslands has caused a severe decline in biodiversity. Tree removal, hay transfer and resumption of grazing or mowing are typical measures to re-create species-rich grasslands. The aim of this study was to use vascular plants and three insect taxa (leafhoppers, true bugs, and grasshoppers) as bioindicators to evaluate the success of montane grassland restoration on former spruce forests in Central Europe. In addition, we intended to identify the drivers of species richness within the studied grasslands in order to derive suitable recommendations for habitat management. Methods: We analyzed two different treatments: (i) grazed restoration sites where trees had been cut and species-rich green hay had been applied (N = 9) and (ii) target sites with a long continuity of low-intensity grazing (N = 9). Results and Discussion: Our study revealed that all studied taxa responded rapidly to the restoration measures. After a development period of 3 to 5 years, we found no differences in species richness and diversity of leafhoppers, true bugs and grasshoppers (all, target and threatened species). In addition, non-metric multidimensional scaling showed a large overlap in species composition between restoration and target grasslands. Among target and threatened species, vascular plants displayed the same pattern as insects and reached similar values when comparing the two treatments. However, total species richness and diversity of vascular plants were still higher on the target sites and species composition overlapped only partially. Grazing intensity was the predictor with the highest explanatory power in multivariable (Generalized) Linear Mixed-effects Models, being negatively related to species richness of leafhoppers and true bugs. We conclude that the measures implemented were effective in re-establishing target communities of different taxa. The transfer of seed-containing hay enabled or accelerated the development of the vegetation. Insects, on the other hand, were able to recolonize the restored grasslands on their own, given that these sites were embedded in a network of species-rich grasslands. With regard to insects (e.g., leafhoppers and true bugs), it should be ensured that grazing is applied at low intensity.
Citations: Helbing F, Fartmann T, Morkel C and Poniatowski D (2023): Rapid response of vascular plants and insects to restoration of montane grasslands. Front. Ecol. Evol. 11:1148266
URL: https://doi.org/10.48693/495
Subject Keywords: Auchenorrhyncha; green hay transfer; habitat quality; Heteroptera; host plant; nature conservation; Orthoptera; Picea abies
Issue Date: 25-May-2023
License name: Attribution 4.0 International
License url: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Type of publication: Einzelbeitrag in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift [Article]
Appears in Collections:FB05 - Hochschulschriften

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