Contrasting response to mowing in two abandoned rich fen plant communities

Menichino, N.M.; Fenner, N.; Pullin, A.S.; Jones, P.S.; Guest, J.; Jones, L.. 2016 Contrasting response to mowing in two abandoned rich fen plant communities. Ecological Engineering, 86. 210-222.

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Globally important U.K. fens are in poor condition, principally due to abandonment, following cessation of traditional mowing and grazing in recent decades. In the absence of management, rich fen flora are displaced as a result of succession. This leads to an increase in competitive species and subsequent biomass accumulation. In order to reverse this trajectory and increase species richness, management consisting of a single mowing event was employed. Mowing was conducted in two degraded fen communities in north-west Wales (U.K.) across three sites: (i) a species rich, tussock alkaline mire, dominated by Schoenus nigricans and Juncus subnodulosus (SN community) and (ii) a species poor basin mire Cladio-Molinietum dominated by Cladium mariscus (CM community). The early vegetation responses were monitored over two years. Results show a large treatment effect on species richness in the CM community, where mean species richness increased by 51% in the second year following mowing. Consequently, total species number across all sites increased to 74 in the treatment compared to 44 in the control. Mowing reduced vegetation height and litter cover and increased bare ground. These treatment effects combined with a reduction in graminoid and shrub cover collectively contributed to the initial stages of rehabilitation. Conversely, the SN community showed no increase in species richness, in spite of a reduction in litter cover and increased bare ground. Strong site heterogeneity and a sustained canopy height caused by rapid re-growth of the dominant graminoid S. nigricans may have impeded treatment effects. Therefore, increased mowing frequency in alternate years, switching between autumn and summer would be necessary to develop species richness in the SN community. Ongoing intervention in each fen community is needed to achieve an optimal trajectory of increased rich fen and reduction of secondary succession species.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
ISSN: 0925-8574
Additional Keywords: rich fens, mowing, Cladium mariscus, Schoenus nigricans, wetland restoration, wetland management, ecological restoration, plant ecology, plant succession
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 26 May 2016 11:36 +0 (UTC)

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