Special Issue "Agri-Environmental Value of Semi-Natural Grasslands: Degradation, Proper Management, and Restoration"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472). This special issue belongs to the section "Ecosystem, Environment and Climate Change in Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 October 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Michele Scotton
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agronomy, Università degli Studi di Padova, Padua, Italy
Interests: grassland management; grasland ecology; grassland restoration; plant reproduction

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite their ancient origin, species-rich semi-natural grasslands still excel among agricultural ecosystems for their multifunctionality, including important agricultural benefits (high-quality forages, niche food products, agro-tourism, etc.) and environmental services (biodiversity, hydrological cycle, carbon sequestration, etc.).

Unfortunately, their extent and quality has been alarmingly reduced in recent decades. Highlighting the causes and losses from grassland degradation in addition to the benefits from proper management of high-quality grassland is therefore crucial for justifying policies aimed at supporting their conservation.

Ecological restoration has also become an important tool for maintaining grassland multifunctionality. Reintroducing species-rich grasslands can increase the environmental value of both agricultural areas (e.g., in livestock farming, field margins, herbaceous–woody cropping systems) and extra-agricultural environments (e.g., in urban parks, green roofs, road embankments, riverbanks, ski slopes).

Dr. Michele Scotton
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • species-rich semi-natural grasslands
  • semi-natural grassland degradation
  • semi-natural grassland management
  • semi-natural grassland conservation and restoration
  • grassland biodiversity in agricultural, urban, and extra-urban environments

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Article
Floristic Composition: Dynamic Biodiversity Indicator of Tree Canopy Effect on Dryland and Improved Mediterranean Pastures
Agriculture 2021, 11(11), 1128; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11111128 - 11 Nov 2021
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Abstract
Montado is a characteristic ecosystem of the Mediterranean region. The adequate management of this silvo-pastoral ecosystem requires good understanding of the effect of factors such as tree canopy, fertilization and soil amendment on pasture growth. The main objectives of this work were: (1) [...] Read more.
Montado is a characteristic ecosystem of the Mediterranean region. The adequate management of this silvo-pastoral ecosystem requires good understanding of the effect of factors such as tree canopy, fertilization and soil amendment on pasture growth. The main objectives of this work were: (1) to evaluate the effect of tree canopy on soil characteristics and pasture productivity and quality; and (2) to test floristic composition assessment as a bio-indicator of soil improvements (amendment and fertilization) in each study area (under and outside tree canopy). Topsoil was characterized at the beginning of the project (October 2015) and at the end of the experiments (spring 2020). Soil parameters obtained by electronic sensors (soil moisture content, soil cone index and surface temperature) were monitored monthly during the 2017/2018 pasture vegetative cycle. Pasture productivity, quality and floristic composition were evaluated every two years (2016, 2018 and 2020) in the spring flowering period. The results of the floristic inventory were submitted to a multilevel pattern analysis (Indicator Species Analysis, ISA). Pasture biodiversity was evaluated based on the calculation of richness indices. This study showed a positive effect of tree canopy on soil fertility and pasture quality (e.g., CP). Pasture productivity, on the other hand, was higher in areas outside tree canopy. The great potential of ISA as a tool for identification of bio-indicator species was also demonstrated. Pasture species were identified as ecological and dynamic attributes characteristic of each study area, before and after soil amendment and fertilization. Full article
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Article
Restoration of Rangelands Invaded by Amelichloa clandestina (Hack.) Arriaga & Barkworth after 12 Years of Agriculture Abandonment (Coahuila, Mexico)
Agriculture 2021, 11(9), 886; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11090886 - 15 Sep 2021
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Abstract
Abandonment of agricultural land is currently one of the main land use changes in developed countries. This change has an impact at the economic level and from the point of view of conservation. Therefore, recovering these areas after abandonment is, in many cases, [...] Read more.
Abandonment of agricultural land is currently one of the main land use changes in developed countries. This change has an impact at the economic level and from the point of view of conservation. Therefore, recovering these areas after abandonment is, in many cases, necessary for ecological restoration, especially as they can be invaded by exotic or dominant species, preventing recovery of the original plant species community. The objective of this study is to examine changes in plant species richness and composition after the application of different treatments to eliminate Amelichloa clandestina, a species that dominates pastures abandoned 12 years ago in an area located in northern Mexico. The area is a semi-desert grassland dominated by buffalo grass Bouteloua dactyloides. We used different eradication techniques such as burning, herbicides, and clipping. Although the treatments had significant effects on species richness and composition and resulted in a relative reduction of the target species, the abundance of Amelichloa clandestina was still substantial. Burning is effective, favoring the increase of species richness and provoking a lower presence of A. clandestine but with a dominance of annuals. The most important impact on the total cover of A. clandestina is shown by the herbicide treatment. However, monitoring of these areas will still be required to consider the long-term impact and success of treatments. Full article
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Article
Grassland Restoration at a Graded Ski Slope: Effects of Propagation Material and Fertilisation on Plant Cover and Vegetation
Agriculture 2021, 11(5), 381; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11050381 - 23 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 548
Abstract
The increasing anthropisation of mountain regions is a cause of soil degradation, which needs to be addressed. Conventional methods of ski slope revegetation often fail to stabilise the soil and recover natural vegetation. To test alternative methods to create a persistent, biodiversity-friendly plant [...] Read more.
The increasing anthropisation of mountain regions is a cause of soil degradation, which needs to be addressed. Conventional methods of ski slope revegetation often fail to stabilise the soil and recover natural vegetation. To test alternative methods to create a persistent, biodiversity-friendly plant cover, different sowing (site-adapted native propagation materials vs. forage cultivars vs. no sowing) and fertilisation treatments were compared over nine years at a graded ski slope. Because of the gravelly soil, the ninth-year plant cover was only 65%, which was sufficient to prevent erosion. All native propagation materials were equally efficient at recreating a semi-natural grassland. Except for Festuca rubra, the forage cultivars did not persist. However, native volunteer species from close natural ecosystems efficiently colonised plots sown with forage cultivars and plots that were not sown. This resulted in a lower plant cover but a high similarity to the surrounding vegetation. Fertilisation had a positive but transient effect on plant cover and a little negative effect on species richness. High-altitude sites with gravelly soils should be revegetated with native propagation materials. Using forage cultivars can attain a persistent plant cover only if the sown non-persistent cultivars are replaced by the species arriving from nearby surrounding vegetation. Full article
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Article
The Dessau Grassland Experiment—Impact of Fertilization on Forage Quality and Species Assembly in a Species-Rich Alluvial Meadow
Agriculture 2021, 11(4), 339; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/agriculture11040339 - 09 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 657
Abstract
Since alluvial meadows of river valleys of the Cnidion dubii are protected by the EU Habitats Directive, reconciling farmers’ demands for forage quality with the objective of maintaining them in good conservation status is an important issue in grassland research. In a long-term [...] Read more.
Since alluvial meadows of river valleys of the Cnidion dubii are protected by the EU Habitats Directive, reconciling farmers’ demands for forage quality with the objective of maintaining them in good conservation status is an important issue in grassland research. In a long-term experiment from 2010 to 2018, we investigated the impact of fertilizing on forage quality and species assembly on a species-rich and twice-mown alluvial grassland in the Dessau Elbe floodplain (Germany). The experiment was composed of an unfertilized control, PK, N60, N60PK and N120PK applications. A significant improvement in forage quality was achieved by nitrogen fertilization only for crude protein, with higher feeding requirements for sheep met only in individual years. The legume cycle was inhibited by the application of nitrogen and high grass cover was maintained, but not increased, at the highest nitrogen application after an exceptional summer flood. The target forbs persisted in numbers over the study period in all treatments. For cover, the low-competitive target forbs responded neutrally to nitrogen fertilization, whereas detrimental effects were demonstrated for the competitive ones. Thus, we recommend not applying more than 60 kg year−1 of nitrogen and only in combination with phosphorus and potassium. Full article
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