Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 29, Number 2, April-June 2009
Page(s) 277 - 285
Published online 31 October 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 29 (2009) 277-285
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2008049

Impact of land use on vegetation composition, diversity and potentially invasive, nitrophilous clonal species in a wetland region in Flanders

Benny De Cauwer and Dirk Reheul

Department of Plant Production, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

Accepted 31 July 2008; published online 31 October 2008

Abstract - In the framework of a nature conservation project in a wetland region of Meetkerke, Belgium, a comprehensive study was conducted to analyse and to compare species composition and diversity among wet grasslands under the six following types of agricultural land use: pastures used at high or low stocking rate, hayfields used at high or low mowing frequency, abandoned hayfields and hay pastures. The focus of the study was on the effects of grassland management on species diversity and on the restriction of occurrence of invasive clonal species. The results show that species importance was strongly related to grassland exploitation parameters and soil hydrological parameters, as shown by the ordination diagram drawn by canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Species number and importance of non-leguminous dicotyledons were negatively correlated to intensity of use, N supply, water table depth and soil drainage. Phalaris arundinacea, an invasive species which might reduce species diversity, was better suppressed in grazed grassland than in mown grassland. Phalaris arundinacea and Cirsium arvense were most prevalent in abandoned hayfields. Grazing at low stocking rate was the best management technique to maximise plant diversity while restricting invasion by nitrophilous clonal species. Although species-rich and of high complementary value on a landscape scale, haylands mown at low frequency are at higher risk of invasion by clonal species.

Key words: species richness / invasive species / grazing / mowing / wetland conservation

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008