Biodiversity-rich European grasslands : ancient, forgotten ecosystems

Feurdean, A, Ruprecht, E, Molnár, Z, Hutchinson, SM ORCID: and Hickler, T 2018, 'Biodiversity-rich European grasslands : ancient, forgotten ecosystems' , Biological Conservation, 228 , pp. 224-232.

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Worldwide reforestation has been recommended as a landscape restoration strategy to mitigate climate change in areas where the climate can sustain forest. This approach may threaten grassland ecosystems of unique biodiversity as such policies are based on the false assumption that most grasslands are man-made. Here, we use multiple lines of evidence (palaeoecological, pedological, phylogenetic, palaeontological) from Central Eastern Europe and show that various types of grasslands have persisted in this area throughout the postglacial i.e., the past 11,700 years. A warm and dry climate, frequent fires, herbivore pressure and early Neolithic settlements kept forests open until widespread forest clearance beginning 4000 to 3000 years ago. Closed forest cover has been the exception for the last two million years. This long-term persistence has likely contributed to the high biodiversity of these grasslands. Consequently, we call for a more cautious prioritisation of the protection of what may be erroneously considered natural, i.e. forests, by many environmental specialists and managers. Instead we provide a new framework for a better understanding of the evolution and persistence of different grassland types and their biodiversity, so that grasslands can be better understood, valued and conserved.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences > Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Biological Conservation
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0006-3207
Related URLs:
Funders: German Research Foundation, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, National Research, Development and Innovation Office
Depositing User: Dr Simon M. Hutchinson
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2018 11:37
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 00:09

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