Effects of long-term removal of sheep grazing on the seedbanks of high-level grasslands and blanket bogs

Marrs, Rob H.; McAllister, H.A.; Cho, K.; Rose, Rob J.; O’Reilly, J.; Furness, M.; Lee, Hyohyemi. 2020 Effects of long-term removal of sheep grazing on the seedbanks of high-level grasslands and blanket bogs. Proceedings of National Institute of Ecology, 1 (1). 22-30.

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Many areas of vegetation in the British uplands have reduced species diversity as a result of sheep overgrazing. It has been suggested that abandonment or re-wilding strategies might be used to reverse this. A likely first step would be the removal or reduction of grazing livestock from upland areas, with a presumption that this would lead to a recovery in species richness. However, we do not know if this would work, or the timescales involved. One of the important areas where more knowledge is needed is information on the size and composition of soil seedbanks as regeneration from zseed is a likely pathway of recovery. Here, we compared seedbanks in both grazed and ungrazed plots in five experiments at Moor House NNR in the northern Pennines; these sheep grazing exclusion experiments were started 52 and 63/64 years ago. Soil samples (n=10) were collected from both grazed and ungrazed plots in each experiment, and seed emergence counted in glasshouse trials. We detected only seeds of common species and very few dicotyledonous species. This suggests that the soil seedbank is unlikely to be a reliable source of the less common species for ecological restoration in these upland communities, suggesting an extinction debt. Therefore, seed addition and the creation of suitable safe-sites for germination may be needed in conjunction with grazing controls to allow the establishment of plants that will increase the species richness of the vegetation. However, this interventionist restoration approach remains to be tested.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Unaffiliated
ISSN: 2733-7243
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available vis Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: blanket bog, grassland, restoration, seedbank, sheep grazing, species diversity
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 09 Nov 2020 15:51 +0 (UTC)

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