Title Old cultural traditions, in addition to land use and topography, are shaping plant diversity of grasslands in the Alps
Author/s Katrin Maurer, Anne Weyand, Markus Fischer, Jürg Stöcklin
Year 2006
Journal Biological Conservation 130: 438-446
Abstract Socio-economically motivated land use changes are a major threat for species diversity of grasslands throughout the world. Here, we comprehensively explore how plant species diversity of grasslands in the species-rich cultural landscape of the Swiss Alps depends on recent land use changes, and, neglected in previous studies, old cultural traditions. We studied diversity in 216 grassland parcels at three altitudinal levels in 12 villages of three cultural traditions (Romanic, Germanic, and Walser). In valleys of Romanic villages more different parcel types tended to occur than in those of Germanic and Walser villages, suggesting that socio-economic differences among cultural traditions still play a role in shaping landscape diversity. Moreover, at the village level, higher man-made landscape diversity was associated with higher plant species richness. All observed changes in land use reduced the farmers’ workload. Plant species richness was lower in fertilized than in unfertilized parcels and in abandoned compared with used parcels. Grazing slightly reduced species richness compared with mowing among unfertilized parcels, while in fertilized parcels it had a positive influence. The highest species diversity was found in mown unfertilized subalpine grasslands. Nevertheless, moderate grazing of former meadows can be a valuable alternative to abandonment. We conclude that observed changes in land use reduce plant species richness within parcels and at the landscape level. Financial incentives should not only maintain those types of land use that conserve high plant species diversity within grasslands, but should in addition promote a high diversity of land use types.
Keywords biodiversity · grazing · mowing · species richness · conservation
Contact Jürg Stöcklin: email | webpage | list of publications