Long-term abandonment of grassland generally causes a decrease in plant species richness. The questions, how long abandoned grassland may remain species-rich and whether the persistence varies between different sites, have been examined insufficiently so far. Thus, in this successional study we analysed over a period of 9 years the effects of abandonment on plant species composition and species richness in a montane grassland in Styria, Austria. We differentiated two topography-related habitat types: a pasture on a steep, south-facing slope with a nutrient-poor soil and a meadow on a flat site below the slope with a more fertile soil. In spring 2001, one permanent plot (plot size: 50 m2) in each habitat type was established. Our results show that the long-term effects of abandonment on grassland vegetation depend largely on local site conditions, especially nutrient availability in the soil seems to be an important factor. On the flat site within 4 years of abandonment floristic composition changed dramatically, a high species turnover and a strong decrease in species richness could be observed. In contrast, on the steep, south-facing slope we found only minor effects, even after 9 years of abandonment.
Bohner, A., Starlinger, F. (2011): Effects of abandonment of montane grasslands on plant species composition and species richness - a case study in Styria, Austria. Grassland Science in Europe 16: 604-606