Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 357311
Title Large-scale effects of a small herbivore on salt-marsh vegetation succession - A comparative study on three Wadden Sea Islands
Author(s) Kuijper, D.P.J.; Bakker, J.P.
Source Journal of Coastal Conservation 9 (2003)2. - ISSN 1400-0350 - p. 179 - 188.
Department(s) Resource Ecology
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2003
Abstract Grazing by livestock is used as a management tool to prevent the dominance of a single tall-growing species during succession on European salt marshes. The effects of natural small herbivores are often neglected by managers. Long-term exclosure experiments on the island of Schiermonnikoog show that hares retard vegetation succession at the early stages of salt-marsh development. In the present study we test whether we can scale-up these exclosure studies to a whole salt-marsh system. We compared 30 years of undisturbed vegetation succession at the Wadden Sea islands of Schiermonnikoog, Rottumerplaat (both The Netherlands) and Mellum (Germany). Salt-marsh development started at all sites in the early 1970s. Hares have been present only on Schiermonnikoog. At each site an area was selected covering a gradient from high to low salt marsh. Surface elevation and clay thickness were measured and a vegetation map was made on the three islands. The areas showed similar clay thickness at low surface elevation, indicating similar sedimentation rates and hence nitrogen inputs. Rottumerplaat and Mellum showed a higher dominance of the late successional species Atriplex portulacoides in the low marsh and Elymus athericus in the high marsh compared to Schiermonnikoog. Typical mid-successional, important food plant species for hares and geese had a higher abundance at Schiermonnikoog. Patterns of vegetation development in the absence of hares followed the observed patterns in the small-scale exclosure experiments at Schiermonnikoog. Without hare grazing, vegetation succession proceeds more rapidly and leads to the dominance of tall-growing species in earlier stages of succession. The present study shows that next to large herbivores, small herbivores potentially have large-scale effects on salt-marsh vegetation succession during the early successional stages.
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