We investigated the effects of different restoration treatments on the development of fen meadow communities: (1) depth of topsoil removal, with shallow (circa 20 cm) and deep (circa 40 cm) soil removal applied, (2) transfer of seed-containing hay, and (3) access of large animals. We carried out a full factorial experiment with all combinations of these factors and monitored it for 4 years. We studied the effect of seed availability in the soil seed bank on species abundance in the vegetation and compared it to the effect of species introduction by hay. We observed large differences in species composition between different treatments after 4 years. The combination of hay transfer, deep soil removal, and exclusion of large animals resulted in a community with highest similarity to the target vegetation. We found that the transfer of seeds with hay had a larger effect on species abundance than the soil seed bank. Hay transfer appeared to have important consequences on vegetation development because it speeded up the establishment of the target vegetation.
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