NKFIH K 119225 (2016-2020)
How can plant ecology support grassland restoration?
Project leader: Péter Török
Nowadays most of the remaining grasslands are degraded and their natural species-pool is depleted. The need to stop or slow down these processes has made research and practice related to habitat-restoration especially important. However, there is still a gap between the theory- and practice-driven approaches. During our research, we are looking to answer the question how theories of plant ecology can help to choose and apply cost-efficient grassland restoration methods.
Traditionally managed species-rich landscapes in Europe and elsewhere are facing a large-scale degradation nowadays, largely caused by changes in the intensity of agricultural land-use, such as intensification or abandonment. For the conservation of biodiversity in such agriculture-driven landscapes, dry and mesic grasslands have an outstanding importance. In the last few decades most of the grasslands were subjected to degradation, which resulted in the loss of biodiversity and other ecosystem functions and services. The recovery of grassland biodiversity by practical habitat restoration, therefore, became a top priority both in scientific research and practice. However, there is a conspicuous gap between the theory- and practice-driven approaches between biodiversity conservation science and policy highlighted in some recent studies. On one hand there are various theories and tools developed in plant ecology to understand the species assembly, dispersal and establishment processes in a wide range of habitats over the world. On the other hand, during practical grassland restoration a set of measures were used for recovering grassland vegetation and assessing restoration success during which huge amounts of evidence-based knowledge have been accumulated. A unified framework linking theoretical plant ecology with the practical implemented restoration is still lacking. In our research we aimed to explore how theoretical findings can support a cost-effective and successful grassland restoration in agriculture-driven landscapes. This approach in restoration is very novel and well connected to the mainstream of restoration ecology and theoretical plant ecology research.