The application of filter-based assembly models in the restoration of sand grasslands
Filter-based community assembly is a promising theoretical framework to support ecological restoration. The conceptual separation of ecological filters helps to guide necessary restoration interventions. The aim of the project is to integrate and scale up the local knowledge gained on sand grassland restoration in Hungary within the framework of filter-based assembly models in order to help the elaboration of a future national restoration strategy and to test related ecological theory.
We re-sample previous restoration experiments (expansion in time), and local results are completed with landscape scale factors that might influence the outcome of restoration measures (expansion in space). The species pool (target and neophyte species) and the distance from primary grasslands and plantations (as a source of target and neophyte species, respectively) were estimated in a 500-m landscape buffer.
Long-term analysis of previous restoration experiments revealed that all treatments applied (seeding, mowing, carbon amendment) were beneficial for target sand grassland species. Seeding proved to be the best method in restoring sand grasslands by both favouring target species and controlling invasion. Mowing can successfully control the re-sprouting of invasive alien black locust and open up spaces for establishment of new species, but if alien species are present, they can easily occupy these establishment gaps. Carbon amendment had only delayed and temporary impact on the vegetation. The longer time scale was very important in detecting the treatment impacts. A larger species pool of neophytes and proximity to plantations increased the cover of neophytes in restored plots.
We conclude that treatments can have a stronger impact on restoration success than landscape factors or the elapsed time in the long-term. Dispersal was the strongest limiting factor in grassland restoration. The presence of invasive alien plants can threaten restoration outcome.
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