Conservation Biology

Research

Nardion grassland project

Species-rich Nardion grasslands are habitats with a high nature conservation value that are protected throughout Europe. Despite the current protection measurements, the Bernese authorities noted a dichotomous degradation of either Nardus stricta or eutrophic plants dominance, both leading to a disappearance of typical Nardion species. We investigated the underlying causes of this degradation process by assessing vegetation composition in 48 Nardion grasslands and linking it to soil, management and environmental variables. To investigate the impact of the degradation on higher trophic levels, we also assessed the orthopteran species richness and density in all the grasslands.

The results show that mowing maintains Nardion grasslands rich in species whereas grazing leads often to degradation. Within pastures, N. stricta cover was most problematic on north-exposed slopes and in summer pastures. Eutrophic species were most abundant in small pastures with low soil Carbon/Nitrogen ratio indicating high nutrient availability. The plausible driver of both degradation trends is grazing intensity: at high grazing intensities, soil Carbon/Nitrogen ratio is low because of high dung deposition, thus the eutrophic species are dominant whereas at low grazing intensities N. stricta is dominant due to selective grazing. Both degradation trends show a negative impact on the orthopteran density, which gives a further reason to protect species-rich Nardion grasslands. A possible management recommendation is to install fences that divide the pastures into smaller areas to homogenize grazing intensity, but this should be tested by further studies.

Grassland management project

We studied the impact of land-use intensification (LUI) on plant diversity in subalpine and montane meadows in Valais, Switzerland.
In a randomized block design experiment, we fertilized, irrigated or combined both treatments in plots within one meadow and compared those with control plots. We found a linear decrease in plant species number and a linear increase in productivity with increasing LUI. Furthermore, we detected hump-backed relationships between evenness and increasing fertilization and irrigation as well as for the species-richness-productivity relationship. We recommend enhancing extensive grassland management and subsidising it further on to prevent both, LUI as well as land abandonment.

Curriculum Vitae

Year Description
2015 - 2017 Master of Science in Ecology and Evolution, with special qualification in Animal Ecology and Conservation
Master thesis: „Importance of Nardion grassland quality for orthopterans: a case study in the Swiss northern Prealps“
2012 - 2015 Bachelor of Science in Biology, Plant Science
Bachelor thesis: „Grassland management: Designing tomorrow’s farmland for plant biodiversity