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Research article2001Peer reviewedOpen access

Demographic variation and population viability in Gentianella campestris: effects of grassland management and environmental stochasticity

Lennartsson, T; Oostermeijer, JGB


1 Transition matrix models were used to evaluate the effects of environmental stochasticity and four different methods of grassland management on dynamics and viability of a population of the biennial Gentianella campestris (Gentianaceae) in species-rich grassland. Data were collected between 1990 and 1995.2 Continuous summer grazing, the prevailing management strategy in Scandinavian grasslands, resulted in high recruitment of new plants, mainly because litter accumulation was prevented and gaps were created by trampling. Trampling and repeated grazing, however, caused damage which reduced seed production. Lambda for the average matrix was c. 0.77, and a stochastic matrix model yielded an extinction probability for the total population of c. 0.08 within 50 years.3 Mowing in mid-July (used as a conservation tool) increased seed production, but litter accumulation following re-growth of the vegetation prevented establishment. Lambda and extinction risk were similar to continuous grazing.4 Mowing in October (another conservation tool) promoted recruitment because of low litter accumulation, but the seed output decreased because plant growth was impaired by tall vegetation. Lambda was 0.64, while the extinction probability was very high (c. 0.98 within 50 years),5 Mid-July mowing followed by autumn grazing (the historical management regime) yielded high values for both seed production and establishment of rosettes. Lambda was 0.94 and the probability of extinction within 50 years was below detection level.6 Log-linear analysis showed that the matrices differed significantly both between treatments and between years. The latter indicates environmental stochasticity, here caused by summer drought that increased the extinction risk. Lambda may be slightly underestimated because drought occurred in one out of five summers during the study period, which is high compared with the natural frequency.7 We conclude that traditional grassland management is more favourable for G. campestris than the methods that prevail in Scandinavia today. This indicates a serious conservation problem, because grazing has replaced traditional management in many of the remaining semi-natural grasslands throughout Europe.


environmental stochasticity; Gentianella; grassland management; population dynamics; population viability analysis; recruitment; seed production; transition matrix models

Published in

Journal of Ecology
2001, Volume: 89, number: 3, pages: 451-463

      SLU Authors

    • Lennartsson, Tommy

      • Department of Conservation Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication identifier


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