Coastal wet grasslands are internationally important habitats as they support high biodiversity. The combination of periodic flooding, fluctuating ground water and regular low-intensity management has created a unique habitat providing ecological niches for a wide diversity of flora and fauna. This habitat, however, is globally threatened due to changes in land management, particularly agricultural intensification or abandonment. In Estonia, agricultural abandonment such as grazing cessation has been recognized as the main cause of coastal wet grassland losses, which results in the encroachment of shrubs and competitive grasses (e.g. Phragmites australis, Elytrigia repens). This research assessed the response of coastal wet grassland plant communities to abandonment and management practices, namely cutting, grazing and soil disturbance. Changes in vegetation composition and abundance were monitored using species and functional groups, and then analysed using multivariate and inferential statistics. Three experiments were located in western Estonia: (i) to compare the responses of species-poor and species-rich wet grasslands to cutting management (Hosby), (ii) to investigate changes in upper shore grasslands under different management practices (i.e. abandonment, cutting and grazing) and in response to reinstating management (Tahu), and (iii) to assess the effects of different levels of disturbance on encroaching grass species and the composition of wet grasslands (Rumpo).
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2008|