Abandonment of traditionally managed mesic mountain meadows affects plant species composition and diversity.
In recent years abandonment of traditional management of mountain grasslands has been observed throughout Central Europe. However, the impact of abandonment on vegetation of mountain grasslands is still unclear. In this study it was hypothesized that the cessation of traditional management of mesic mountain meadows causes changes in their species composition and a decrease in the biodiversity. In total, 260 plots were established in the Sudetes (SW Poland) on meadows with regular annual mowing, meadows with irregular mowing management, and abandoned meadows. Relevés (5×5 m) were performed, and the habitat properties were determined using Ellenberg indicator values. The study confirmed the hypothesis that the various ways of extensive management have an influence on species richness. The lowest species richness was observed on the irregularly managed meadows, while higher species numbers were found on the abandoned and regular managed meadows. The majority of patches on abandoned meadows exhibited degradation through the expansion of Solidago gigantea, Solidago canadensis, Lupinus polyphyllus, Heracleum sosnovsky, Calamagrostis epigejos, Deschampsia flexuosa, Festuca rubra and Hypericum maculatum. Meadows subjected to different management practices differed significantly in Ellenberg indicator values. The abandoned meadows had the highest values of the light index (L) and nitrogen availability (N), whereas the highest values of soil moisture (F) were noted on the irregularly managed meadows. The degradation of mountain mesic meadows requires regular mowing management, which stops ecological succession and preserves their high biodiversity.