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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Perceived feasibility of sward management options in permanent grassland of Alpine regions and expected effects on delivery of ecosystem services

Mack, Gabriele; El Benni, Nadja; Spoerri, Martina; Huguenin-Elie, Olivier; Tindale, Sophie; Hunter, Erik; Price, Paul Newell; Frewer, Lynn J.


Agriculture in Alpine regions plays an important role for multiple ecosystem services (ES) supplied from permanent grassland (PG). This paper investigates the feasibility of sward renewal, overseeding, and rising plate meters on PG for the Swiss Alpine region and analyses their expected effects on ES supply. Sward renewal and overseeding are management options implemented in response to a decline of grassland yields and nutritive value or sward damage. Rising plate meters focus on increased grass utilisation for improving profitability of grassland farms in a sustainable manner. The aim was to improve the understanding which of these three PG management practices could be promoted to deliver a wide range of agricultural and non-agricultural ESs in the Swiss Alpine region. Through interviews with 75 farmers (including organic and intensive/extensive non-organic farmers) and a Delphi-methodology on a panel of experts (N = 10 experts with different expertise), we found that sward renewal is perceived to have negative effects on biodiversity, carbon storage, flood control, prevention of soil erosion, and prevention of loss of organic matter in Alpine regions. Therefore, sward renewal should not be promoted, although about half of the farmers interviewed had already carried out the practice on plots following severe sward damage in Alpine regions. Overseeding is perceived to have positive effects on biodiversity, prevention of soil erosion, and grass production. Thus, the high level of overseeding that is currently practiced in the Swiss Alpine region is probably sustainable. Rising plate meters do not play a significant role in PG management in the Alpine region because calibration in PG with diverse grassland botanical composition in the Alpine region is too difficult.


Delphi; Farmer interviews; Mountain agriculture; Sward renewal; Overseeding; Rising plate meters

Published in

Environment, Development and Sustainability
2024, Volume: 26, number: 2, pages: 4579-4601
Publisher: SPRINGER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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