Conservation and restoration of Nardus grasslands in the Swiss northern Alps

Kurtogullari, Yasemin; Rieder, Nora Simone; Arlettaz, Raphaël; Humbert, Jean-Yves (2020). Conservation and restoration of Nardus grasslands in the Swiss northern Alps. Applied Vegetation Science, 23(1), pp. 26-38. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/avsc.12462

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Aim: Species‐rich Nardus grasslands are high nature‐value habitats. In Switzerland, many of these grasslands are degraded even though they have been under protection since the 1980s. Degradation shows two divergent trends: Nardus grasslands are either dominated by Nardus stricta or by eutrophic plants, both trends leading to the disappearance of typical Nardus grassland species. With this study, we aim to identify the factors that could be adjusted to conserve the integrity of this habitat.
Location: Bernese Alps, Switzerland.
Methods: In 2016, we investigated the underlying causes of this degradation process by assessing vegetation composition in 48 Nardus grasslands located in the Swiss northern Alps of canton Bern and linking it to soil, management and environmental variables. To explore the effect of the degradation on higher trophic levels, orthopteran species richness and densities were assessed.
Results: Results show that Nardus meadows (mown) are rarely degraded compared to Nardus pastures (grazed). Within pastures, eutrophic plants are most abundant on small pastures with low soil carbon/nitrogen ratio, indicating high nutrient availability. Nardus stricta dominance is most problematic on north‐exposed slopes and in summer pastures. A plausible driver of both degradation trends is the grazing management regime: within small pastures at low elevation where the grazing periods are short but intense, soil carbon/nitrogen ratio is low because of high dung deposition, thus the eutrophic species become dominant. Contrastingly, on large summer pastures with low‐intensity and long‐term grazing, N. stricta becomes dominant due to selective grazing. Both degradation trends show a negative impact on the orthopteran density.
Conclusion: Species‐rich Nardus grasslands are a precious alpine habitat for specialised plant species and orthopterans. With an extensive mowing regime or a more controlled grazing regime that homogenises intensity in time and space, species‐rich Nardus grasslands can be conserved in Switzerland.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Conservation Biology

UniBE Contributor:

Kurtogullari, Yasemin, Rieder, Nora Simone, Arlettaz, Raphaël, Humbert, Jean-Yves


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








Olivier Roth

Date Deposited:

14 Apr 2021 08:49

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:49

Publisher DOI:





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