Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1111/1365-2745.14063
Licence creative commons licence
Title (Primary) The recovery of plant community composition following passive restoration across spatial scales
Author Ladouceur, E.; Isbell, F.; Clark, A.T.; Harpole, W.S. ORCID logo ; Reich, P.B.; Tilman, G.D.; Chase, J.M.
Source Titel Journal of Ecology
Year 2023
Department iDiv; PHYDIV
Volume 111
Issue 4
Page From 814
Page To 829
Language englisch
Topic T5 Future Landscapes
Data and Software links
Keywords biodiversity; chronosequence; old fields; regeneration; restoration; scale dependence; succession; global change ecology
  1. Human impacts have led to dramatic biodiversity change which can be highly scale-dependent across space and time. A primary means to manage these changes is via passive (here, the removal of disturbance) or active (management interventions) ecological restoration. The recovery of biodiversity, following the removal of disturbance, is often incomplete relative to some kind of reference target. The magnitude of recovery of ecological systems following disturbance depends on the landscape matrix and many contingent factors. Inferences about recovery after disturbance and biodiversity change depend on the temporal and spatial scales at which biodiversity is measured.
  2. We measured the recovery of biodiversity and species composition over 33 years in 17 temperate grasslands abandoned after agriculture at different points in time, collectively forming a chronosequence since abandonment from 1 to 80 years. We compare these abandoned sites with known agricultural land-use histories to never-disturbed sites as relative benchmarks. We specifically measured aspects of diversity at the local plot-scale (α-scale, 0.5 m2) and site-scale (γ-scale, 10 m2), as well as the within-site heterogeneity (β-diversity) and among-site variation in species composition (turnover and nestedness).
  3. At our α-scale, sites recovering after agricultural abandonment only had 70% of the plant species richness (and ~30% of the evenness), compared to never-ploughed sites. Within-site β-diversity recovered following agricultural abandonment to around 90% after 80 years. This effect, however, was not enough to lead to recovery at our γ-scale. Richness in recovering sites was ~65% of that in remnant never-ploughed sites. The presence of species characteristic of the never-disturbed sites increased in the recovering sites through time. Forb and legume cover declines in years since abandonment, relative to graminoid cover across sites.
  4. Synthesis. We found that, during the 80 years after agricultural abandonment, old fields did not recover to the level of biodiversity in remnant never-ploughed sites at any scale. β-diversity recovered more than α-scale or γ-scale. Plant species composition recovered, but not completely, over time, and some species groups increased their cover more than others. Patterns of ecological recovery in degraded ecosystems across space and long time-scales can inform targeted active restoration interventions and perhaps, lead to better outcomes.
Persistent UFZ Identifier
Ladouceur, E., Isbell, F., Clark, A.T., Harpole, W.S., Reich, P.B., Tilman, G.D., Chase, J.M. (2023):
The recovery of plant community composition following passive restoration across spatial scales
J. Ecol. 111 (4), 814 - 829 10.1111/1365-2745.14063