Until recently, restoration measures in Dutch brook valley meadows consisted of re-introducing traditional management techniques, such as mowing without fertilisation and low-intensity grazing. In the Netherlands, additional measures, such as rewetting and sod cutting, are now carried out on a large scale to combat negative influences of drainage and acidifying influences by atmospheric deposition. An analysis of successful and unsuccessful projects shows that restoration of brook valley meadows is most successful if traditional management techniques are applied in recently abandoned fields that had not been drained or fertilised. Large-scale topsoil removal in former agricultural fields that had been used intensively for several decades is often unsuccessful since seed banks are depleted, while hydrological conditions and seed dispersal mechanisms are sub-optimal. In areas with an organic topsoil, long-term drainage had often led to irreversible changes in chemical and physical properties of the soil. Successful sites were all characterised by a regular discharge of calcareous groundwater provided by local or regional hydrological systems, and, where not very long ago, populations of target species existed. On mineral soils, in particular, sod removal in established nature reserves was a successful measure to increase the number of endangered fen meadow species. It is argued that attempts to restore species-rich meadows should be avoided on former agricultural fields, where pedological processeshave led to almost irreversible changes in the soil profile and where soil seed banks have been completely depleted. From a soil conservation point of view, such areas should be exploited as eutrophic wetlands that are regularly flooded.
- plant communities
- brook valleys