Long-term success of floodplain meadow restoration on species-poor grassland
Restoration of floodplain meadows remains a challenge, as many degraded sites suffer from seed limitation. The transfer of seed-containing plant material from species-rich donor sites is a widely used method to restore semi-natural grasslands. However, most studies on the success of such restoration projects comprise limited time frames. As factors determining restoration success may only become evident after many years, long-term observations are crucial. We re-investigated 20 restored grassland sites in the floodplain of the Northern Upper Rhine 13–16 years after plant material transfer with different soil preparation treatments. To this end, we carried out vegetation surveys on 254 permanent plots and studied the potential influence of soil preparation, soil nutrients, and hydrology on plant species composition, diversity, and transfer of target species. Since sustainable agricultural use is important to ensure the long-term stability of restored semi-natural grasslands, we further investigated biomass productivity and feeding value. While most target species increased in frequency or remained stable over time, we found no positive long-term effect of soil preparation on vegetation development and target species establishment. Concerning agricultural usability, the integration of restored floodplain meadows in farming systems is possible and can ensure long-term management and thus stability of these ecosystems. Our study shows that long-term monitoring of restoration projects is necessary, as factors determining restoration success may only become evident in the long-term.