Orsolya Valkó, Rocco Labadessa, Salza Palpurina, Sabina Burrascano, Atushi Ushimaru and Stephen Venn
Palaearctic grasslands are diverse and dynamic ecosystems that are in the focus of ecology, conservation biology and agronomy. This special issue is dedicated to the biodiversity and conservation issues of Palaearctic grasslands and was initiated by the Eurasian Dry Grassland Group members attending the 14th Eurasian Dry Grassland Conference (EDGC) at Sulmona, Italy in 2018. The papers in this special issue cover a wide range of grassland ecosystems from mountain dry grasslands to lowland loess grasslands, feathergrass steppes and wet grasslands, and focus on the biodiversity values and conservation issues of Palaearctic grasslands. We believe that this compilation will contribute to a better understanding of the ecology of grasslands and support their more effective conservation.
Marta Carboni, Jürgen Dengler, Jasmin Mantilla-Contreras, Stephen Venn and Péter Török
Most semi-natural open habitats in Europe have been traditionally maintained by anthropogenic activities, such as grazing or mowing, preventing the establishment of woody vegetation. These habitats harbour a remarkably rich biodiversity in terms of both plant and animal species, but are also highly threatened, mainly by agricultural intensification and land abandonment. With this Editorial we introduce a Special Issue initiated by the European Dry Grassland Group (EDGG) at the Open Landscapes Conference (Hildesheim, 2013) and the 11th European Dry Grassland Meeting (Kulikovo Pole, 2014). We aim to give a short introduction to the current conservation status, significance and research of semi-natural open habitats in Europe and present the collected articles of the Special Issue. These papers cover a wide range of different semi-natural open habitats, including wood-pastures, heathlands, steppes, semi-dry and dry grasslands across the Palearctic region and address issues related to the assessment methods, threats, management and restoration of these habitats. We conclude that, in order to ensure their conservation and to monitor the changes in open habitats, integrative approaches are needed that take into account not only vegetation records, but also multiple animal taxa, abiotic factors, management practices, ecosystem services and modelling simulations for anticipating possible future scenarios. We also recommend that decision-makers should support actions to conserve open habitats in Europe by addressing such major challenges as the encroachment of woody vegetation. We are convinced that the present Special Issue will contribute to a better understanding of ecosystem functions and support the biodiversity conservation and management of semi-natural open habitats.
Orsolya Valkó, Michal Zmihorski, Idoia Biurrun, Jacqueline Loos, Rocco Labadessa and Stephen Venn
Palaearctic grasslands encompass a diverse variety of habitats, many of high nature value and vulnerability. The main challenges are climate-change, land-use change, agricultural intensification and abandonment. Many measures are in place to address these challenges, through restoration and appropriate management, though more work is necessary. We present eight studies from China/Germany, Greece, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. The papers cover a wide range of grassland and steppe habitats and cover vegetation ecology, syntaxonomy and zoology. We also conducted a systematic search on steppe and grassland diversity. The greatest number of studies was from China, followed by Germany and England. We conclude that the amount of research being carried out on Eurasian grasslands is inadequate considering their high levels of biodiversity and vulnerability. We hope to encourage readers to address current major challenges, such as how to manage grasslands for the benefit of diverse taxa, to ensure that conservation initiatives concentrate on sites where there is good potential for success and for the generation of realistic and viable conservation strategies.
Stephen Venn, Didem Ambarlı, Idoia Biurrun, Jürgen Dengler, Anna Kuzemko, Péter Török and Michael Vrahnakis
This report summarizes the activities and achievements of the Eurasian Dry Grassland Group (EDGG) from mid-2016 through to the end of 2017. During this period, the 13th Eurasian Grassland Conference took place in Sighişoara, Romania, and the 14th conference was held in Riga, Latvia. The 10th EDGG Field Workshop on Biodiversity patterns across a precipitation gradient in the Central Apennine mountains was conducted in the Central Apennines, Italy, this time in addition to multi-scale sampling of vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens, also including one animal group (leaf hoppers). Apart from the quarterly issues of its own electronic journal (Bulletin of the Eurasian Dry Grassland Group), EDGG also finalised five grassland-related Special Features/Issues during the past 1.5 years in the following international journals: Applied Vegetation Science, Biodiversity and Conservation, Phytocoenologia, Tuexenia and Hacquetia. Beyond that, EDGG facilitated various national and supra-national vegetationplot databases of grasslands and established its own specialised database for standardised multi-scale plot data of Palaearctic grasslands (GrassPlot).
Jürgen Dengler, Alla Aleksanyan, Didem Ambarlı, Idoia Biurrun, Iwona Dembicz, Anna Kuzemko, Péter Török, Stephen Venn and Michael Vrahnakis
This report summarises the activities and achievements of the Eurasian Dry Grassland Group (EDGG) from January 2018 through July 2019. During the reported period, two Eurasian Grassland Conference (EGCs) took place: the 15th EGC in Sulmona, Italy, and the 16th EGC in Graz, Austria. The 11th and 12th EDGG Field Workshops studied vegetation diversity patterns in the inner alpine valleys of Austria and Switzerland, while the 13th Field Workshop was organised in Armenia. The formerly electronic newsletter of EDGG (Bulletin of the Eurasian Dry Grassland) was transformed into a peer-reviewed international journal, called Palaearctic Grasslands, which now is attracting both scientific and photographic contributions. Furthermore, the EDGG homepage was re-constructed with a new design and content management system. The EDGG has also finalised two grassland-related Special Features during the past 1.5 years in the international journals Tuexenia and Hacquetia, and contributed with eight chapters to the book Grasslands of the World: Diversity, Management and Conservation. The vegetation-plot database GrassPlot, containing standardised multi-scale data from Palaearctic grasslands and closely connected with EDGG, has developed well, as did some other regional and national grassland-focused databases.
Orsolya Valkó, Stephen Venn, Michał Żmihorski, Idoia Biurrun, Rocco Labadessa and Jacqueline Loos
Disturbance by biomass removal is a crucial mechanism maintaining the diversity of Palaearctic grasslands, which are unique biodiversity hotspots. The century-long traditional land use of mowing, grazing and burning, has been fundamentally changed in many parts of the Palaearctic. Due to socio-economic changes, large areas of former pastures and meadows have been abandoned, leading to a succession towards secondary scrublands or forest and the encroachment of competitor grass species, all leading to a decrease in biodiversity. Here we report the causes and consequences of the cessation of traditional grassland management regimes, provide strategies for reducing the impact of abandonment and consider these from the perspective of sustainability. We consider the possibilities for initiating sustainable management regimes in the contemporary socio-economic environment, and discuss the prospects and limitation of alternative management regimes in the conservation of grassland biodiversity. These themes are also the core topics of this Special Feature, edited by the EDGG. We hope that this Special Feature will encourage steps towards more sustainable strategies for the conservation of Palaearctic grasslands and the integration of the sustainability perspective into their conservation.