Data from: Traditional forest management practices stop forest succession and bring back rare plant species
Douda, Jan; Boublík, Karel; Doudová, Jana; Kyncl, Michal (2016), Data from: Traditional forest management practices stop forest succession and bring back rare plant species, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.kr6hg
Past management practices may continue to influence ecosystem functions and processes for decades, centuries or even longer after they have been abandoned. Until now, few researchers have attempted experiments which test the effects of restoring some of these past management practices on long-term community developmental trajectories. Strong evidence indicates that the diversity of various taxonomic groups declined in European lowland forests in the second half of the 20th century, following the abandonment of some traditional forest management practices. We carried out a five-year field trial in a lowland thermophilous oak forest to describe the effects of restoration of litter raking and grass cutting on the long-term developmental trajectory of species composition and the diversity of understorey vegetation. We used target species groups, i.e. species specific to thermophilous forests and dry grassland vegetation and plant functional traits to evaluate the restoration success using both compositional and functional outcomes. Dissimilarity in species composition between the managed plots and controls increased significantly during the five years of the trial. Litter raking increased the richness and cover of the thermophilous forest and dry grassland species, whereas grass cutting increased the richness and cover of only the dry grassland species. We did not record any overall trends in divergence of functional trait composition between managed and control plots. In the litter raking plots, we recorded increases in community-weighted means of specific leaf area, in lateral spread and in Ellenberg indicator values for nutrients and soil reaction. In contrast, we found little evidence for predictability of species functional trait composition subjected to grass cutting. Synthesis and applications. Following the restoration of traditional forest management practices we were able to change the community's developmental trajectory towards higher richness and cover of target species. The evaluation of community developmental trajectories using species and functional trait composition supports the idea that restoration of traditional forest management practices should carefully distinguish among possible interventions.