No detrimental effects of delayed mowing or uncut grass refuges on plant and bryophyte community structure and phytomass production in low-intensity hay meadows

van Klink, Roel; Boch, Steffen; Buri, Pierrick; Rieder, Nora Simone; Humbert, Jean-Yves; Arlettaz, Raphaël (2017). No detrimental effects of delayed mowing or uncut grass refuges on plant and bryophyte community structure and phytomass production in low-intensity hay meadows. Basic and applied ecology, 20, pp. 1-9. Elsevier 10.1016/j.baae.2017.02.003

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To maintain European semi-natural grasslands, agri-environment schemes (AES) have been established in many countries but their biodiversity benefits have remained limited. We tested the effects of three new mowing regimes designed to benefit biodiversity in extensively managed meadows across the Swiss lowlands. Our experimental treatments mimicked easily implementable farming practices. We previously showed that invertebrates benefit from delayed mowing and leaving an uncut grass refuge. Here we focus on the effects on plant and bryophyte communities. We compared the standard AES practice (earliest mowing on June 15, no fertilizer input, but no restriction on number of cuts) to three alternative mowing regimes: (i) earliest mowing delayed by one month, (ii) maximum of two cuts per year with at least eight weeks in between, and (iii) leaving an uncut refuge on 10–20% of the meadow area in 12 study areas in the Swiss lowlands. We also tested for the interactive effects of ambient temperature, precipitation, elevation, meadow size, local forest cover, time since AES registration, and phytomass production. After five years of application, we found no difference in the effects of mowing regimes on vascular plant or bryophyte species richness, community composition, phytomass, flowering phenology or average plant height (the latter two indices were derived from the literature). However, cutting frequency and hay nutritional quality (C:N and Ca:P ratios) were lower under delayed mowing. Vascular plant and bryophyte species richness as well as forage quality were negatively related to phytomass, while the latter was positively related to mean summer temperature and negatively to time since AES registration. We conclude that supporting invertebrate biodiversity with alternative mowing regimes has no detrimental effects on the vascular plants and mosses, while the reduced forage quality calls for additional financial compensation of the farmers adopting these agri-environment schemes.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Van Klink, Roel; Boch, Steffen; Buri, Pierrick; Rieder, Nora Simone; Humbert, Jean-Yves and Arlettaz, Raphaël

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1439-1791

Publisher:

Elsevier

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2017 15:51

Last Modified:

06 Jul 2017 15:51

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.baae.2017.02.003

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Agri-environment scheme; AES; Agronomy; Biodiversity promotion area; Cutting; Near-infrared spectroscopy; NIRS; Productivity–diversity relationship; Semi-natural grassland; Switzerland

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.100110

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/100110

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