Effects of water level and grassland management on alpha and beta diversity of birds in restored wetlands.

Published online
09 Mar 2016
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Żmihorski, M. & Pärt, T. & Gustafson, T. & Berg, Å.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Nordic Countries & Sweden


Nearly 60% of European wetlands have been lost to drainage or to the cessation of grassland management. Large amounts of resources are put into wetland restoration with the aim to recover biodiversity. However, few studies have simultaneously evaluated effects of management, wetness and flooding dynamics on biodiversity of restored wetlands such as seasonally flooded wet grasslands. We inventoried bird communities over 4 years at 137 sites (each 3.1 ha) within five restored wet grassland areas in Sweden to investigate whether species richness and occurrence of 12 common wet grassland species were related to (i) local conditions such as management (grazing, mowing and unmanaged areas), basic wetness and spring flooding dynamics. Further, we investigated whether (ii) the composition of the adjacent landscape (20 ha) related to local bird diversity and (iii) species turnover (i.e. beta diversity) differed between sites characterized by their basic wetness, degree of flooding and predominant management regime. Local species richness was positively linked to degree of flooding and basic wetness of grasslands but not to type of grassland management. Species richness tended also to be negatively linked to proportion of forest at the landscape scale. Although variable, the same results were also true concerning the probability of the occurrence of a single species at the local scale. Species turnover between sites, and thus total species richness, was distinctly higher in (i) grazed as compared to mowed grasslands except in dry non-flooded grasslands and (ii) flooded as compared to non-flooded sites. Similar patterns held for the subset of 12 red-listed species. We suggest that the high beta diversity in grazed and flooded grasslands is driven by the heterogeneous vegetation structure, resulting in good conditions for foraging and nesting for several wet grassland bird species. Synthesis and applications. The selection of wetlands for conserving wet grassland birds should prioritize temporary flooded grasslands of moderate wetness, preferably far from forest edges. Restoration and management of wet grasslands should include water level management, removal of shrubs and trees, and low-intensity grazing, whereas mowing could be used in non-flooded grasslands of low basic wetness.

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