Selection of experimental sites in the Songnen grassland (24.-30.07.2011).

Grassland restoration from a whole plant perspective: Project kick-off in the Songnen Grassland plains, China.

The GrassRest project started a new cooperation with Prof. Zhou Daowei from the Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The new cooperation offers the opportunity to carry out experiments on sites provided by the CAS research station which is focussing on restoration ecology. Together with the experimental sites of the Songnen Grassland Ecosystem Research Station operated by the Northeast Normal University in Changchun, the GrassRest project is now active at two research locations of the Songnen grassland plains.

The new cooperation with CAS will enable the GrassRest project to join existing factorial field experiments focussing on mulching, seeding and mowing effects on grassland restoration. A second new experiment was established to analyse the typical patchy structure of the Songnen grassland. These patches are usually characterized by high pH and high salt concentrations often preventing the establishment of vegetation. Only adapted plants (halophytes) are able to grow inside these patches. Patchy structures seem to be a natural trait of this grassland, however, overgrazing was shown to amplify degradation and patch development including the complete loss of topsoil and native vegetation.

Restoration of these patches thus might be a key measure to stop degradation and to re-establish natural vegetation. On two different grassland sites characterized by moderate land-use intensity including grazing and haymaking, selected patches will be treated with different restoration techniques, including mulching and fertilization. A MSc student from the Northeast Normal University will carry out this restoration experiment from autumn 2011 until end of 2012.