Many amphibians spend most of the year in terrestrial habitats. Therefore, in order for them to thrive, they require not only suitable aquatic habitats, but also suitable terrestrial habitats. Wet meadows are extremely important and are used as feeding habitats by many amphibians. The LIFE AMPHICON project is restoring them using a variety of approaches, including adapted mowing regimes, removal of invasive alien plant species and planting hedgerows. In Ljubljansko barje, we have recently carried out the transfer of patches of grass sward, which will provide a valuable seed bank of characteristic wet meadow plants.

The patches were acquired from the Jovan Hadži Institute of the The Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, whose Barje Research Station has been conducting supporting breeding of the highly endangered butterfly False Ringlet (Coenonympha oedippus) for the last three years as part of the project ‘Restoration and Conservation of Ljubljansko barje Wetland habitats’ project. The grass sward patches with purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea) have allowed its caterpillars to survive in captivity, and now its remains will be used to restore some wet meadow areas.

The planted patches of grass sward will serve as a source of seeds to replenish areas that have been cleared of overgrowth (shrubs, mixed with invasive alien species) in previous seasons. By transplanting whole patches of vegetation, some of the challenges involved in collecting native seeds are avoided. The main advantage is that the transfer ensures that whole plant communities germinate, whereas when mowing or hand-picking, the seeds of some species may not yet be mature enough. Transplanting also provides the advantage of transferring the appropriate microbiota, which can have a positive effect on the successful sprouting of seeds and growth of new plants.

We expect the grass patches will survive the transplanting process, allowing the plant communities to recover and eventually, attracting other endangered species to return. The experience gained in this process will be of considerable value for all the future activities in wet meadows restoration efforts.

Photo: G. Lipovšek, T. Porenta