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Can Grassland Plant Communities Be Preserved on Road and Railway Verges?

Päivi M. Tikka, Piia S. Koski, Reija A. Kivelä and Markku T. Kuitunen
Applied Vegetation Science
Vol. 3, No. 1 (May, 2000), pp. 25-32
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1478915
Page Count: 8
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Can Grassland Plant Communities Be Preserved on Road and Railway Verges?
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Abstract

Semi-natural grasslands are a threatened biotope type in many countries. Typical grassland plant species are adapted to continuous grazing or mowing that keeps the environment open. With the decline in grassland area, these species are ever more reliant on alternative habitats such as road verges. To find out whether plant communities comparable to those of semi-natural grasslands can be maintained on modern road and railway sides, the vegetation of 92 grasslands and 90 road and railway verges was studied. These biotope types were compared with each other according to their community structure, total number of species, number of grassland species and restricted-range diversity. Further study of the vegetation of road and railway verges was carried out in order to identify the treatments and environments which are most likely to support diverse plant communities. The species number and the restricted-range diversity proved to be higher next to roads and railways than on grasslands. Grassland species were, however, most abundant on grasslands. Furthermore, the community structure of these biotope types was totally divergent. In their present state, road and railway verges are not a substitute for semi-natural grasslands. Nevertheless, the occurrence of grassland species in verges may be enhanced by a suitable mowing regime, by giving up the use of de-icing salt and herbicides and by allowing natural establishment of vegetation on the verges.

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