Mowing and plant removal is a traditional practice in low-intensity farming and likely to lead to high plant species richness. Even today, scientific knowledge on the impact of mowing on seed availability is still very limited. We studied whether the seed availability of ditch bank plant species was affected by the timing of mowing and, if so, whether the effect varied according to management regime (nature reserve, agri-environment scheme (AES) with long-term management, AES with short-term management, conventional management). Our focus was on seed availability for transportation, because restoration of ditch bank vegetation is known to be limited by seed dispersal. The presence and seed-setting of 25 target species in 384 plots were recorded at the mowing date, under four management regimes. A Hierarchical Generalised Linear Model (HGLM) was used to analyse the effects of mowing date and management on the number of species setting seed. It suggests that when the mowing is twice annually, mowing on July 1st and on September 1st will result in a maximum number of species of which the seeds are available for transportation and, therefore, create largest opportunities for seed dispersal on ditch banks in the western peat area of the Netherlands. The effect of mowing date differs among species, with certain rare species like Caltha palustris and Lythrum salicaria in particular differing from the commoner species. A flexible mowing regime varying from year to year would therefore help to protect these rare species. The later peak in seed-setting found in nature reserves and long-term AES suggest a postponed mowing compared to conventionally management and short-term AES. (C) 2010 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.
- Seed availability Dispersal Nature reserves Nutrient availability Mowing regime agricultural landscapes microsite limitation diaspore transfer field margins fen meadows restoration grasslands diversity soil richness Biodiversity & Conservation Environmental Sciences & Ecology