Cultural heritage and biodiversity conservation - plant introduction and practical restoration on ancient burial mounds.
Linking the conservation of cultural heritage and natural values provides a unique opportunity for preserving traditional landscapes and receives an increased awareness from stakeholders and society. Ancient burial mounds are proper objects of such projects as they are iconic landscape elements of the Eurasian steppes and often act as refugia for grassland specialist species. The aim of this project was to reintroduce grassland plant species to burial mounds for representing them as cultural monuments with the associated biodiversity for the public. The effectiveness of seed sowing, transplanting greenhouse-grown plants and individuals from threatened populations on burial mounds in Hortobágy National Park, Hungary was tested. The following questions were answered: (1) which method is the most effective for species introduction? (2) which species can establish most successfully? (3) how does management affect the species establishment rates? It was found advisable to use a combination of seed sowing and transplanting greenhouse-grown plants. Sowing was found as a cost-effective method for introducing large-seeded species, whilst introduction of greenhouse-grown transplants warranted higher establishment rates for a larger set of species. Transplanting adult individuals was more reliable regardless of management regimes, however this method is labour-intensive and expensive. Intensive management, like mowing with heavy machinery and intensive grazing, should be avoided in the first few years after introduction. The authors highlighted the fact that introducing characteristic grassland species on cultural monuments offers a great opportunity to link issues of landscape and biodiversity conservation. This project demonstrated that, by the revitalisation of cultural monuments, cultural ecosystem services can also be restored.