Long-term change in calcareous grassland vegetation and drivers over three time periods between 1970 and 2016

Ridding, Lucy E.; Bullock, James M.; Pescott, Oliver L.; Hawes, Peter; Walls, Robin; Pereira, M. Gloria; Thacker, Sarah A.; Keenan, Patrick O.; Dragosits, Ulrike; Pywell, Richard F.. 2020 Long-term change in calcareous grassland vegetation and drivers over three time periods between 1970 and 2016. Plant Ecology, 221 (5). 377-394.

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Analysis of long-term vegetation change is limited. Furthermore most studies evaluating change only examine two snapshots in time, which makes it difficult to define rates of change and accurately assess potential drivers. To assess long-term change in calcareous grassland over multiple time periods, we re-surveyed a transect study undertaken at Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve, Wiltshire, southern England in 1970 and 1990 by T. Wells. We examined differences in soil properties and species traits in each of the survey years to understand potential drivers of vegetation change, including nitrogen deposition and grazing management. There was a clear shift in species composition, combined with significant declines in species richness and diversity between 1970 and 2016, with the greater rate of change occurring between 1990 and 2016. A significant increase in soil total nitrogen was found, which was significantly associated with the decline in species diversity between 1970 and 1990. Significant changes in community-weighted mean traits were identified for plant height (increasing), specific leaf area (decreasing), grazing tolerance (decreasing) and Ellenberg N (decreasing) between 1970 and 2016. By using survey data from multiple time periods, we suggest that N deposition may have contributed towards community changes between 1970 and 1990, as indicated by the change in soil properties and the associated decline in species diversity. Vegetation change between 1990 and 2016 is likely to be largely attributable to a decline in grazing pressure, indicated by the increase in taller species and a decrease in grazing tolerance.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects (Science Area 2017-)
Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1385-0237
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: calcareous grassland, grazing, long-term, nitrogen deposition, soil properties, species traits
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 03 May 2020 14:04 +0 (UTC)

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