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Restoration of Alvar Vegetation on Öland, Sweden

Ejvind Rosén and Eddy van der Maarel
Applied Vegetation Science
Vol. 3, No. 1 (May, 2000), pp. 65-72
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1478919
Page Count: 8
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Restoration of Alvar Vegetation on Öland, Sweden
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Abstract

Alvars in the Baltic region, particularly on the Swedish islands of Öland and Gotland and in western Estonia, are well-known for their plant species richness and extensive populations of rare species. Grasslands make up most of alvar vegetation. The extent of these grasslands decreases because of bush enchroachment which takes place in most alvars when traditional land use practice changes, notably when grazing is ceased. The main threat for the alvar grassland is formed by the rapid expansion of Juniperus communis and Potentilla fruticosa in dry and wet sites, respectively. Applied research has been carried out during several years in order to develop plans for the restoration of alvar grassland. Thus it was shown that species richness in areas with a mixture of grassland and shrubland decreases in relation to the increased cover by shrubs. In the case of Juniperus there is a distinct drop in species number as soon as the cover exceeds 75-80%, while the decrease is more gradual with increased cover of Potentilla. The seed banks under dense stands of these shrubs only contain ca. 20% of the species found in dry and wet alvar meadows. This was confirmed by clearing experiments. Long-term recordings have shown that establishment of juniper seedlings takes place mainly in half-open areas between already existing junipers. Intermediate-sized junipers expanded faster than old and big shrubs. Potentilla shrubs recover fast from cutting or burning. After 2-4 yr they have almost attained their former size. This recovery can be prevented when cattle grazing is introduced. In the framework of a local alvar restoration project on Öland, covering 7000 ha, grazing regimes are re-established, fences erected and large-scale clearings carried out. Recently established juniper shrubs are being cleared, intermediate sized junipers (30-50 yr old) are selectively removed while creating a mosaic landscape with high biological diversity. Older dense juniper stands are left alone or are only partly cleared. Potentilla stands in moist areas are cut to create moist meadows which are breeding grounds for waders, and to establish corridors between remaining open areas. Three items are discussed (1) the importance of the Stora Alvar area; (2) re-introduction of grazing and (3) re-introduction of species. The outstanding importance of the area regarding species richness and endemism should be recognized through a 'golden list' to be used along with red and blue lists.

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