Can mowing restore boreal rich-fen vegetation in the face of climate change?

Louise C. Ross* (Corresponding Author), James Speed, Dag-Inge Oien, Mateusz Grygoruk, Kristian Hassell, Anders Lyngstad, Asbjorn Moen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Low-frequency mowing has been proposed to be an effective strategy for the restoration and management of boreal fens after abandonment of traditional haymaking. This study investigates how mowing affects long-term vegetation change in both oceanic and continental boreal rich-fen vegetation. This will allow evaluation of the effectiveness of mowing as a management and restoration tool in this ecosystem in the face of climate change. At two nature reserves in Central Norway (Tågdalen, 63° 03’ N, 9° 05 E, oceanic climate and Sølendet, 62° 40’ N, 11° 50’ E, continental climate), we used permanent plot data from the two sites to compare plant species composition from the late 1960s to the early 1980s with that recorded in 2012–2015 in abandoned and mown fens. Changes in species composition and frequency were analysed by multivariate and univariate methods in relation to environmental variables and modelled climate and groundwater data. Mowing resulted in a decline in shrub and Molinia caerulea cover at the continental and oceanic sites respectively, and the total cover of specialist fen species had increased to a significantly greater extent in the mown plots than the unmown at the continental site. However, mowing did not have an effect on the cover of specialist bryophyte species, and some specialist species declined regardless of mowing treatment. Temperature sums had increased at both sites, but precipitation had not changed significantly. Mowing was shown to be the most important determinant of plant community composition at both sites, with local environmental conditions being of secondary importance. In conclusion, the abandonment of traditional management practices results in the loss of characteristic fen species. In order to encourage the restoration of typical rich-fen vegetation, particularly in oceanic areas, additional management measures, such as more intensive mowing, may be required.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211272
Number of pages16
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Wiktor Kotowski, Klara Goldstein, Łukasz Kozub, Bård Pedersen and Agata Klimkowska for discussions, and to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Funding: This study was part of the project “Mires and climate: towards enhancing functional resilience of fen peatlands” funded by the Polish-Norwegian Research Programme (project number Pol-Nor/199522/86/2013) awarded to Professor Alojzy Z. Nowak – vice-rector for Research and Liaison at the University of Warsaw The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.




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