Species-rich hay meadow sites in West Norway: conservation and management

Save this PDF as:

Size: px
Start display at page:

Download "Species-rich hay meadow sites in West Norway: conservation and management"


1 Species-rich hay meadow sites in West Norway: conservation and management M. H. Losvik Botanical institute, University of Bergen, Norway Abstract Many farms of west Norway are abandoned, and on most of the managed farms only high-intensity farming is practised. On a few of the managed farms, however, ancient agricultural management, with sheep grazing in spring and in autumn, one late cut and no fertilising is still practised, and here long-term use has resulted in species-rich sites. These sites cover small areas on each of the actual farms, as most of the infields is heavily fertilised grasslands and poor in species. Earlier these fertilised parts of the infields were tilled fields for grain production where large amounts of winter manure were applied. The species rich parts of the infield are situated on steep slopes or on shallow soils. This combination of high-intensity and low-intensity farming is highly vulnerable as it is dependent on the farmers' interests and time resources. In this study recordings of vascular plant species, area, aspect, slope, vegetation type and present management of twelve species-rich grassland sites in West Norway were assembled. Only one of the species rich sites is protected by law, and the owners of this and one of the other sites are given a small financial support each year. In order to conserve the vegetation of the sites for the future, long-term management plans and conservation plans are needed. The management of the hay meadows should be made attractive to the farmers by including the hay meadows in developing programs for ago-tourism in these regions. The nature itself, such as fjords, mountains and glaciers has been the main traditional tourist attractions in West Norway till present time. The species-rich gasslands might become one of several additional attractions, as they are situated no more than about one hour by car from main region centres. Organisations for tourism ate already well developed in the regions.

2 1 Introduction The whole countryside in west Norway was intensively used for agricultural purposes before the Second World War. The small farm units used mixed farming with little or no commercial fertilisers, and the winter manure was used on tilled fields. The coastal heaths and the hills of the fjord regions were both mown and grazed, and deciduous trees were pollarded or coppiced in the hillsides of the valleys and fjords of the inland [l]. In addition the alpine areas were both harvested for fodder and intensively grazed by large husbandry herds during the summer season [2]. Today's conventional agriculture with heavy fertilising, or abandonment, has left few sites where the old, traditional management is still in use [3]. In some cases, especially when spring and autumn grazing of the infields has been continued, the old unfertilised hay meadows are still mown, using a light mower or scythes. In a few cases old pollards are still pollarded, and some of the heaths areas are still grazed and burned. Some unfertilised, formerly mown grasslands have maintained a high species diversity by intensive grazing even if they are not mown any more. Boreal grasslands, namely unfertilised, semi-natural hay meadows and pastures, are examples of high bio-diversity sites [4, 5, 61. Such meadows are in focus for conservation in Scandinavia as well as in other European countries [7, 8, 9, 10, 111. Originally these grasslands were parts of an infield system with many tilled fields on the best areas, and hay meadows on steep parts and in areas with shallow soil in-between the tilled fields [12, 131. Other hay meadows were situated in the best parts of the outfields. The old, traditional management has tended to be continued for the longest time in remote areas along the fjords and valleys, and on islands along the coast, and these areas coincide with the regions of greatest interest for the tourists, with its fjords, mountains, glaciers, alpine skiing centres and fishing opportunities. The aim of the paper is to present an overview of species-rich grasslands which are still managed in West Norway and to discuss measures to secure their conservation involving the continuation of low-intensity farming. 2 Grassland sites and methods 2.1 Study region The climate of the region of Hordaland and Sogn and Fjordane is variable. Along the coasts it is humid with high mean winter temperatures, while in the eastern parts it is dry with low winter temperatures. This affects the grassland vegetation, and sites in the coastal areas and southern exposed hillsides along the fjords belong to the Boreo-Nemoral vegetation zone, while the eastern sites belong to the Southern Boreal vegetation zone [14]. This results in rather large differences in species composition of the hay meadows along the west-east gradient. The topography is equally varied, with high mountains, deep fjords and valleys. The

3 coast is characterised by many islands. The soils may be poor in minerals, but large areas have a bedrock which is rich in minerals and thus have mineral-rich soils. In southern exposed hillsides along the fjords the local climate is usually much warmer than in other situations, and here warmth-demanding species thrive. 2.2 Data collection Within each site, improved or abandoned grassland was excluded from the investigation. The species within the rest of the sites were then recorded, and area, aspect and slope was estimated. The situation was recorded, whether it was in steep slope(s), around outcrops, bordering sea-cliffs, in remote or small areas of the infield or in borders along paths. The management of the grasslands at the time of investigation was noted during interviews with the farmers. The species were grouped as 1) Indicators of traditional management (TM indicators), 2) Common (trivial) grassland species, and 3) Additional species according to Losvik [15, 161. The indicators of traditional management are of special interest with respect to the conservation of hay meadows. They comprise both rare and more widespread species characteristic of unfertilised, semi-natural grasslands in the region. Such species have been recorded in ~60% of hay meadow plots investigated in West Norway In these studies 548 plots of 1-16 m2 each at 196 sites were studied, 310 of the plots were considered as species-rich [16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 221. The present limit derives from the author's experience of species that are infrequent or absent in moderately or wellfertilised grasslands in West Norway. Grassland species occurring in more than 60% of the plots were considered as common grassland species. Additional species were largely forest or wetland species. A group of vulnerable grassland species in West Norway [23] was also considered. These species were found in <23% of the plots in the mentioned data set. Nomenclature is according to Lid & Lid [24]. 2.3 Old, traditional management of hay meadows Traditionally the hay meadows were mown once a year late in season, in July- August. Different kinds of scythes were used. The grass was dried on racks or flat on the ground. In addition to mowing, the grasslands were grazed in spring from late April to early June, and in autumn from late September onwards. After the spring grazing period, the meadows were raked for remnants of manure and twigs from trees. No extra manure or fertilisers were applied. These management practices have probably prevailed since medieval times [13]. Mineral losses are made up for by trickling water from near-by arable fields and mineral-rich andlor nutrient rich springs, or by weathering of stone particles in the soil. The spreading of faeces during grazing is also important in keeping up the mineral and nutrient balance. Thus the use is presumable sustainable, with low quantities

4 of nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil and hence low production as integrated parts of the system. 2.4 Tourism and organisations Modern agriculture, fisheries, aqua-culture, tourism and the national policy have supported the inhabitation of remote areas in West Norway, and thus created the necessary foundation for the continued management of the high bio-diversity sites. The Nature Councils at national and county level have only small resources to support the management of cultural landscape sites. The Agricultural councils, however, use some recourses each year to support farmers who still manage their farms in an old traditional way. Hordaland has ca 1.7 million visitors and Sogn and Fjordane has ca 1.1 million visitors a year [26]. The fjords, mountains and glaciers are the main traditional tourist attractions in the region. Organisations for tourism and guiding are well developed in the regions. The city of Bergen, with its quarter of a million inhabitants, its airport, train, bus and boat connections to other parts of West Norway and the capital Oslo, act as an entrance for the tourists. Some of the sites in the present set of grasslands have additional features of interest, such as large size, easy admittance, owner in favour of tourism, shores suitable for swimming, walking paths and surroundings of unspoiled rural landscape. The potential resources of local museums and historic societies in managing high bio-diversity sites have still not been much used in Norway. Table 1: Situation of the investigated farms. Name of farm: Farm, counties: Hordaland (HO) and Sogn and Fjordane (SF), countylmunicipality: CM, date and year of investigation: Date, aspect: Asp., slope is in degrees. Farm Vestvik Storstaua Osland Berge Selsvold HAg0y Grotle Ulvund Gjuvsland Flage Gurvin Hanby C/M Region c. UTM Date HOA30rnlo Leirvik KM SFIGulen Bergen KN SFIAskvoll Fmde KP HOA30mlo Leirvik KM HO/Fusa Rosendal LM SFIAskvoll Fbrde KP SFIBremanger MAlay KP HONoss Voss LN HOIKvinnherad Rosendal LM HONoss Voss LN SFISogndal Sogndal LN HOIAskby Bergen KN Asp SE SW-N SW SSE SE SSW W-S S-SW SE-E SW SSE SW Slope

5 3 Results Twelve species-rich grassland sites have been recorded (Table 1) in the region of Hordaland and Sogn and Fjordane. Most sites are situated along the coast or in the outermost parts of the fjords, only Ulvund, Flage, and Gurvin are situated in the eastern parts of the region. Only one of the grasslands was situated in the outfields of the farms and continuous, the others consisted of one or more small parts of the infield areas of the farms. The sites have a southern aspect in more or less steep slopes. All are less than 1 hectare in size (Table 2). Table 2: Hay meadow situation, vegetation type (Type), area (ha), management and exposure to resent accidental fertilisation (Fer) Vegetation types: Conopodium majus meadows, with 5 subtypes (Col-5) and Lychnis viscaria meadows (Lych). Situation Vestvik Steep slope Storstaua Around outcrops Osland Remote part Berge Around outcrops Selsvold Steep slope, borders Higoy Border seacliffs Grotle Border seacliffs Ulvund Steep slopes, outcrops Gjuvsland Steep slopes, outcrops Flage Steep slope Gurvin Steep slope Hanoy Around outcrops Type Area Management Fer CO Mown CO 2, Mown and grazed + CO 2,4 0.1 Grazed c Grazed CO l-2,4 0.1 Mown and grazed + CO Mown and grazed + CO Mown and grazed + Lych 0.1 Mown and grazed - CO Mown and grazed - Lych 0.15 Mown and grazed - Lych 0.1 Mown and grazed - CO Grazed The hay meadows belong to 4 different vegetation types, namely three subtypes of the coastal Conopodium majus grassland [22] and the eastern Lychnis viscaria grassland, described in Losvik [20] as Galium uliginosum - Knautia arvensis meadows. The Osland, Berge and Hanoy sites are at present grazed in the summer season, the Vestvik site is mown several times a season, the other sites are grazed in spring and in autumn and mown late in the summer using scythes or small mowers. Four of the meadows were exposed to accidental spreading of manure, being located close to improved grassland areas. In the investigated grassland sites 176 vascular plants were recorded on a total area of about 2 ha (Table 3). Fifty-eight TM indicators was found, 24 of these were regarded as vulnerable. The mean number of TM indicators was 23, the mean number of vascular plants in the sites was 51. Twenty-six common grassland species and 92 additional species were also recorded. Many additional species are characteristic for wet meadows, fens or forests. The sites are threatened by abandonment or by increased fertilisation.

6 Table 3: Presence of vulnerable and common TM indicators in threatened grasslands. Farms: Vestvik (Ve), Storstaua (St), Osland (OS), Berge (Be), Selsvold (Se), (Hi), Grotle (Gr), Ulvund (Ul), Gjuvsland (Gj), Flage (FI), Gurvin (Gu) and (Ha). Farm Vulnerable TM indicators Aira praecox Ajuga pyramidalis Briza media Carex pilulifera Carum carvi Centaurea,jacea Cynosurus cristatus Danthonia decumbens Euphrasia stricta Galium boreale Galium verum Gentianella campestre Hieracium pilosella Knautia arvensis Leucanthemum vulgare Linum catharticum Lychnis viscaria Pimpinella saxzpaga Platanthera chlorantha Polygala vulgaris Prunella vulgaris Rhinanthus minor Scilla verna Trifolium dubium Ve St OS Be Se HP Gr U1 Gj Fl GuHa Vulnerable TM indicators CommonTMindicators Total no. of TM indicators Commongrasslandspecies l5 5 Additional species Total number of species Common TM indicators: Achillea millefolium, A. ptarmica, Aira praecox, Avenula pubescens, Bistorta vivipara, Campanula rotundifolia, Carex pallescens, Carex pulicaris, Centaurea nigra, Conopodiwn majus, Festuca vivipara, Galium saxatile, Galium uliginosum, Geranium sylvaticum, Hieracium umbellatum, Hieracium vulgatum, Holcus lanatus, Hypericum rnaculatum, Hypochoeris radicata, Lathyrus pratense, Leontodon autumnalis, Lotus corniculatus, Luzula campestris, Luzula multiflora. Lychnisgoscuculi, Plantago lanceolata, Potentilla erecta, Succisa pratense, Veronica awensis, Veronica chamaedrys, Veronica oficinalis, Vicia cracca, Vicia sepium and Viola tricolor (34 species).

7 4 Discussion Species rich hay meadow sites cover rather small areas at present [27]. Most hay meadow sites appear as borders along paths, small, remote and isolated areas or as 'islands' of steep slopes or outcrop areas in a 'sea' of improved grassland of the infields. This pattern of rather small fragments of hay meadow vegetation within each infield area is old and has a long tradition, and it must not be confused with the modern fragmentation at the landscape level. It is the abandonment of whole farms, and the abandonment of the former hay meadow parts of the managed farms that causes the increase in distances between farms where this old, traditional type of sites are still managed, up to the present point when the managed sites lies distant from each other, as islands in the landscape. Their species are genetically isolated, where they earlier may have been parts of metapopulations of whole regions. When hay meadows are abandoned, half of the characteristic species of high diversity hay meadows disappear in 30 years, the most vulnerable ones disappear in 10 years [23]. At present many of these species are still to be found growing on abandoned areas around outcrops or along roadsides, but the ecological conditions on the sites are likely to change, and the species will go locally extinct. Some are also present in other, equally threatened vegetation types, such as heaths. Even if they may seem to be quite widespread at present, they are all on the verge of a correlated local extinction in the region. Most of the investigated hay meadows are managed by both grazing and mowing. Still it seems that frequent mowing or grazing by sheep may also result in high plant species diversity. The investigated sites are in urgent need of protection, management plans and plans for providing ecological step-stone habitats between sites. Dating back to the medieval ages, hay meadows are as precious and as irreplaceable as the stave churches and should be considered as important to protect. This is a task for authorities at the national and county level. The Norwegian government initiated an investigation on threatened cultural landscape vegetation types in Norway. In west Norway four sub-types of Conopodium rnajus hay meadows of the coast, one Knautia antensis hay meadow type of the fjords, and one Lychnis viscaria hay meadow type of the inland valleys were evaluated as threatened [27]. Very few sites of Norwegian cultural landscape vegetation are protected at present. In Switzerland agricultural subsidies are tied to ecological requirements, e.g. farmers had to convert at least 7% of their land to semi-natural biotopes such as extencified grassland and wild flower strips. Investigations in 1999 showed that endangered plants species were present on 42% of 582 meadows there [28]. As Norway use agricultural subsidies, this measure could be used here too. In tourism the hay meadows may become one of several additional attractions, as they are situated no more than one hour by car from the region centres. Through guided tours the tourists may get an insight into farming history and traditions. Development of written instructions for each site and courses for guides is necessary in order to arrange guided tours to the sites. Through

8 contracts a part of the tour fee might give the farmers an extra income, and ensure the continuation of the management of these high bio-diversity sites. References Austad, I. & Skogen, A., Restoration of a deciduous woodland in Western Norway formerly used for fodder production: effects on the tree canopy and field layer. Vegetatio 88, pp. 1-20, Kvamrne, M., Pollen analytical studies of mountain summer-fanning in western Norway, The cultural landscape - past, present and future, eds. H. H. Birks, H. J.B. Birks, P. E. Kaland & D. Moe, Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge, Losvik, M. H., Consequences of agricultural land use changes in western Norway, Ecological and landscape consequences of land use change in Europe, ed. R. H. G. Jongman, ECNC: Tilburg, pp , During, H. J. & Willems, 5. H., Diversity models applied to a chalkgrassland. Vegetatio 57: , Baldock, D., Agriculture and habitat loss in Europe. Wwnternational Cap Discussion Paper 3: Gland, Willems, J. H., Peet, R. K. & Bik, L., Changes in chalk-grassland structure and species richness resulting from selective nutrient additions. J. Veg. Sci. 4: , Van Dijk, G., The status of semi-natural grasslands in Europe. Calcareous grasslands; Ecology and management, eds. P. D. Goriup, L. Batten, & J. A. Norton, Bluntisham Books: Bluntisham, Huntingdon, pp , Garcia, A., Conserving the species-rich meadows of Europe. Agriculture Ecosystems Environment 40: ,1992. Bernes, C., Biologisk mdngfald i Sverige. Naturvkdsverket Forlag: Solna, [l01 Bignal, E. M. & McCracken, D. I., Low-intensity farming systems in the conservation of the countryside. J. Appl. Ecol. 33: , [l11 Norderhaug, A., Hay meadows: Biodiversity and Conservation. Thesis, University of Goteborg: Goteborg, [l21 Visted, K. & Stigum, H., Vdr gamle bondekultur. Bind I. J. W. Cappelens forlag MS: Oslo, [l31 Serlvberg, I. (d., Driftsmdter I vestnorsk jordbruk ca Universitetsforlaget: Oslo, [l41 Moen, A., Nasjonalatlas for Norge: Vegetasjon. Statens kattverk, Honefoss, [l51 Losvik, M. H., Use of total species number as a criterion for conservation of hay meadows. Agroecology and conservation issues in temperate and tropical regions. 1I:Landscape Ecology and Agroecosystems, Proceedings of the International Symposium in Padova, Italy, eds. R. G. H. Bunce, L. Ryszkowski, & M. G. Paoletti, CRC Press, Inc.: USA, pp , 1993.

9 [l61 Losvik, M. H., Refinds of grassland species in Hordaland og Sogn. Blyttia 54,47-59, [l71 Bjgrndalen, J. E. & Odland, A., Botaniske undersakelser pi Bprrnlo. Universitetet i Bergen. Bot. Mus. Rapp. 5: 1-59, [l81 Plvstedal, D. O., The vegetation of LindL and Austrheim, western Norway. Phytocoenologia 13: , [l91 Lundekvam, H. E. & Gauslaa, Y., Phytosociology and ecology of mown grasslands in western Norway. Meld. Norg. Landbr. HGgsk. 65 (22): 1-26, [20] Losvik, M. H., gkologisk-historiske studier av kulturavhengig vegetasjon i Hordaland. Thesis, University of Bergen: Bergen, [21] Losvik, M. H., A hay meadow in western Norway - changes in the course of a growing season. Nord. J. Bot. 11: , [22] Losvik, M. H., Hay meadow communities in western Norway and relations between vegetation and environmental factors. Nord. J. Bot. 13: , Losvik, M.H., Plant species diversity in an old, traditionally managed hay meadow compared to abandoned hay meadows in south west Norway. Nord. J. Bot. 19, pp , [24] Lid, J. & Lid, D. T., Norskflora, Det norske samlaget: 0~10,1994. [25] Statiscics Norway [26] Losvik, M. H., Variations in species richness in hay-meadow vegetation at Voss, west Norway, in relation to long-term management practices. Nonu. J. Geogr. 55, pp , [27] Moen, A., Alm, T., Austad, I., Kielland-Lund, J., Losvik, M. H. & Norderhaug, A., Kulturbetinget engvegetasjon, Truete vegetasjonstyper i Norge, eds. Eds. Fremstad, & A. Moen, Trondheim, pp ,2001. [28] Herzog, F., Giinter, M., Hofer, G., Jeanneret, P., Pfiffner, L., Schlapfer, F., Schiipbach, B. & Walter, T., Restoration of agro-biodiversity in Switzerland. Ecosystems and sustainable development III, eds. Y. Villacampa, C. A. Brebbia & B. C. Us6: Southampton, 2001.