New paper accepted – Extreme Change in Species Composition over 55 years: A Re-Sampling Study of Species-Rich Meadows in Estonia

Estonia is known for extremely species-rich meadows. We hold some of the world records of small scale plant diversity (see Wilson et al 2012). So, naturally, these habitats have been study objects for a long time. Despite the fact that biodiversity and it´s value is fairly a new concept in science. Anyway, here is another little piece of research on community composition changes in time in some of these species-rich meadows. It was conducted by researches in Department of Botany, but there is one co-author affiliated with our ecophysiology work group.

Full citation: Silja Kana; Merit Otsus; Marek Sammul; Tiiu Kull & Lauri Laanisto (2015) Extreme Change in Species Composition over 55 years: A Re-Sampling Study of Species-Rich Meadows in Estonia. Annales Botanici Fennici (in press)

Laelatu wooded meadow (source: Wikipedia)

Abstract

We revisited 44 remnants of historically species-rich meadows in two regions in Estonia in order to evaluate their importance in harbouring meadow species. We used Ellenberg indicator values (EIV), diversity and evenness indices and species functional traits (CSR strategy, height, clonal mobility, ramet life span) to analyse changes in vegetation and in habitat conditions. Habitat loss resulted in similar amount of loss both among meadow specialists and generalists. Significant negative effect of abandoned management appeared only in case of meadow specialists in meadows unmown for more than 10 years in SE. The increase in nutrients EIV exhibited the largest change. We found a significant decline in typical meadow species (e.g. Briza media, Primula farinosa) and increase of strong competitors. Species in remnants tended to have higher clonal mobility and lower ramet life span, indicating fertile habitats. The ecological conditions became unfavourable for meadow species which prefer high light and unfertile conditions. The remnant meadows have largely lost the floristic diversity of the original nutrient-poor or moist species-rich meadows.

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