Question: What are the consequences of grazing abandonment on the Stipa lessingiana dominated steppe-like grasslands? What is the relative importance of management and environmental factors in causing variation in species composition and abundance in the continuously grazed and abandoned grassland stands?
Location: Transylvanian Lowland, Romania.
Methods: Repeated vegetation mapping of a grassland stand, where grazing was abandoned 35 years ago; re-sampling six grassland stands surveyed 29–57 years ago. For revealing long-term changes in species composition and rank abundance PCoA ordination was applied. The relative importance of management and environmental factors in structuring vegetation were explored by CCA ordination. Diversity, evenness and the relative number and abundance of red-listed species were compared between managed and abandoned stands.
Results: Our results pointed out that grasslands which were formerly grazed and dominated by S. lessingiana, in the longterm absence of grazing, have been transformed into a S. pulcherrima dominated type. Management, probably by creating bare surfaces and preventing litter accumulation, had the strongest effect on the species composition and abundance in the grasslands. Abandoned grassland stands had lower diversity and evenness compared to continuously grazed stands. While at the same time, the relative number of threatened, rare species did not differ between managed and abandoned sites.
Conclusion: Maintaining extensively grazed, as well as unmanaged, Stipa dominated grasslands would be important in order to create various habitat conditions for plant species, especially threatened and rare species, and promote diversity on the landscape scale.
Nomenclature: Tutin et al. (1964–1980).