Restoration of montane fen meadows by mowing remains possible after 4-35 years of abandonment

  • Published source details Billeter R., Peintinger M. & Diemer M. (2007) Restoration of montane fen meadows by mowing remains possible after 4-35 years of abandonment. Botanica Helvetica, 117, 1-13.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Cut/mow herbaceous plants to maintain or restore disturbance

Action Link
Peatland Conservation

Restore or create traditional water meadows

Action Link
Farmland Conservation
  1. Cut/mow herbaceous plants to maintain or restore disturbance

    A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in 1998–2000 in 15 degraded fen meadows in Switzerland (Billeter et al. 2007) found that resuming mowing increased plant species richness and bryophyte cover, but had no effect on other plant cover or biomass. After two years, species richness was higher in mown plots than unmown plots: of all plants (32 vs 28 species/2 m2) and fen-characteristic plants (18 vs 16 species/2 m2). Mown plots also had greater bryophyte cover than unmown plots (60 vs 47%). There were no significant differences in vascular plant cover (data not reported), total biomass (mown: 193; unmown: 225 g/m2) or herb biomass (mown: 52–80; unmown: 51–110 g/m2). Four 2 m2 plots were established in each meadow (abandoned for 4–35 years). In September 1998 and 1999, two random plots in each meadow were mown. Cuttings were removed. The other two plots were not mown. In summer 2000, vegetation cover was visually estimated in each plot. Above-ground biomass from a 20 x 20 cm subplot was cut, dried and weighed.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

  2. Restore or create traditional water meadows

    A replicated, controlled study of 15 abandoned fen meadows in Switzerland (Billeter et al. 2007) found that mowing resulted in an increase in plant biodiversity. Mowing resulted in an increase in plant species richness (control: 28 species/2 m², mown: 33), number of indicator species (control: 16, mown: 18), broadleaved plants (control: 18/plot, mown: 21/plot), woody species (control: 1/plot, mown: 2/plot), mosses/liverworts (bryophyte) biomass (control: 55 g/m², mown: 85 g/m²), seedling density of Davall's sedge Carex davalliana (control: 0.40/m², mown 1.49/m²) and Devil's bit scabious Succisa pratensis (control: 1.04/m², mown: 0.53/m²) and a decrease in total biomass (control: 225 g/m², mown: 193 g/m²). Two indicator species increased substantially with mowing: bog-star Parnassia palustris (+10 plots) and heath spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata/majalis (+13 plots). Two control and two mown (mid-September) plots (2 m²) were randomly established in each meadow (4-35 years since abandonment). Plant species richness (1998) and cover (2000) were recorded in late July-early August. Plant biomass (dry weight) was sampled in subplots (20 x 20 cm) in early August 2000 and separated into vascular plant, litter and moss/liverwort biomass. Life history traits were investigated for two abundant plant species: Davall’s sedge and Devil’s bit scabious (three/plot) and seedlings of the species were counted in five subplots/plot (10 x 10 cm) in May-June 2000.


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