Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2015Peer reviewed

Historic hay cutting dates from Sweden 1873–1951 and their implications for conservation management of species-rich meadows

Eriksson, Ove; Bolmgren, Kjell; Westin, Anna; Lennartsson, Tommy


Semi-natural hay meadows are species rich habitats, formed by a long history of management and they have experienced a drastic decline all over Europe. There is a vast literature on conservation and species diversity of semi-natural hay-meadows, but very limited information on historic timing of hay cutting. We analyzed data collected between 1873 and 1951 on hay cutting dates and phenology of six plant species from farms distributed across Sweden. The data set comprised 16,015 observations from 175 sites. Results show that date of start and end of hay cutting varied across Sweden. The start of hay cutting was generally delayed by 2.2 days per latitudinal degree and 1.5 days per 100 m altitude, while the end of hay cutting was generally delayed by 2.9 days per latitudinal degree and 2.5 days per 100 m altitude. The average hay cutting period was 18.5 ± 6.6 days, and became slightly shorter northwards. Site-specific factors had a great impact on when hay cutting was performed, as indicated by a significant correlation between flowering (and leafing) phenology in other species and start date of hay cutting. Today, management for conservation is usually related to a calendar date (e.g. regulated in eligibility criteria and requirements for payment in agri-environment programs in EU). In order to mimic historic management that formed this habitat, management should instead account for latitude and altitude, between-year variation in timing of hay cutting, variation in both start and end dates of hay cutting and if possible local phenological conditions.


Flowering phenology; Mowing dates; Land use history; Leaf burst phenology; Semi-natural hay-meadows

Published in

Biological Conservation
2015, Volume: 184, pages: 100-107