Skip to main content Accessibility help

Short-Term Effects on Diversity and Biomass on Grasslands from Artificial Dykes under Grazing and Mowing Treatments

  • Cannelle Moinardeau (a1), François Mesléard (a1) (a2), Hervé Ramone (a1) and Thierry Dutoit (a1)


Few studies document the impacts of conservation management practices such as extensive grazing or mowing on the new ecosystems created by industrial conversions. In southern France, the Rhône channelling led to the construction of dykes to protect the Tricastin industrialized area from floods. Aiming to control plant dynamics for safety reasons and to favour plant biodiversity, mowing or extensive grazing by cattle were recently tested. Monitoring from both permanent plots and aerial photographs shows that three years of extensive grazing and annual mechanical mowing have modified plant composition, significantly increasing plant species richness, evenness and heterogeneity. The increase in evenness and beta-diversity from grazing was significantly higher than from mowing. Only grazing was able to reduce the height and cover of the dominant tussock perennial grass species (Brachypodium phoenicoides), while increasing bare soil cover and thus the contribution of annual species. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) obtained through aerial photographic analyses confirmed the correlation between NDVI, aboveground biomass and plant species richness for the grazed site alone, allowing the results obtained from quadrats to be generalized to the scale of the grazed site. On the Rhône’s artificial dykes, extensive grazing appears to be a better management tool than mowing to enhance plant biodiversity and meet safety objectives.


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Cannelle Moinardeau, Email:


Hide All
Allison, LE (1965) Organic carbon. In: Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 2, ed. CABlack, pp. 13671378. Madison, WI, USA: ASA.
Baize, D (2000) Guide des Analyses en Pédologie. Paris, France: INRA.
Barradas, I Cohen, JE (1994) Disturbances allow coexistence of competing species. Journal of Mathematical Biology 32: 663676.
Benjamini, Y Hochberg, Y (1995) Controlling the false discovery rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 57: 289300.
Borcard, D, Gillet, F Legendre, P (2011) Numerical Ecology with R. New York, NY, USA: Springer.
Bray, JR Curtis, JT (1957) An ordination of upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecological Monographs 27: 325349.
Bremner, JM (1996) Nitrogen total. In: Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 3 – Chemical Methods, Soil Science Society of America Book Series, 5, eds. DL Sparks, AL Page, PA Helmke, RH Loeppert, PN Soltanpour and MATabatabai, et al., pp. 10851121. Madison, WI, USA: Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy.
Caldeira, MC, Hector, A, Loreau, M Pereira, JS (2005) Species richness, temporal variability and resistance of biomass production in a Mediterranean grassland. Oikos 110: 115123.
Carboni, M, Dengler, J, Mantilla-Contreras, J, Venn, S Török, P (2015) Conservation value, management and restoration of Europe’s semi-natural open landscapes. Hacquetia 14: 517.
Collins, SL, Knapp, AK, Briggs, JM, Blair, JM Steinauer, EM (1998) Modulation of diversity by grazing and mowing in native tallgrass prairie. Science 280: 745747.
Cousens, R, Dytham, C Law, R (2008) Dispersal in Plants: A Population Perspective. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Duncan, P (1992) Horses and Grasses: The Nutritional Ecology of Equids and Their Impact on the Camargue . New York, NY, USA: Springer Verlag.
ESRI (2004) ArcGIS Desktop: Release 10. Redlands, CA: Environmental Systems Research Institute.
Eversham, BC, Roy, DB Telfer, MG (1996) Urban, industrial and other manmade sites as analogues of natural habitats for Carabidae. Annales Zoologici Fennici 33: 149156.
Firn, J, House, APN Buckley, YM (2010) Alternative states models provide an effective framework for invasive species control and restoration of native communities. Journal of Applied Ecology 47: 96105.
Flynn, ES (2006) Using NDVI as a Pasture Management Tool. Master’s thesis. Lexington, KY, USA: University of Kentucky.
Garrigues, S (2004) Hétérogénéité Spatiale des Surfaces Terrestres en Télédétection: Caractérisation et Influence sur l’Estimation des Variables Biophysiques. Rennes, France: Agrocampus – École nationale supérieure d’agronomie de Rennes.
Girerd, B (1991) La Flore du Département de Vaucluse. Avignon, France: Editions Alain Barthélémy.
Grumbine, RE (1997) Reflections on ‘What is ecosystem management?’. Conservation Biology 11(1): 4147.
Guinochet, M (1973) Phytosociologie. Paris, France: Masson.
Hautier, Y, Niklaus, PA Hector, A (2009) Competition for light causes plant biodiversity loss after eutrophication. Science 324(5927): 636638.
Hayes, GF Holl, KD (2003) Cattle grazing impacts on annual forbs and vegetation composition of mesic grasslands in California. Conservation Biology 17(6): 16941702.
Hobbs, RJ, Arico, S, Aronson, J, Baron, JS, Bridgewater, P Cramer, VA et al. (2006) Novel ecosystems: theoretical and management aspects of the new ecological world order. Global Ecology and Biogeography 15: 17.
Hobbs, RJ, Higgs, ES Hall, CM (2013) Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order. Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Jensen, K, Trepel, M, Merritt, D Rosenthal, G (2006) Restoration ecology of river valleys. Basic and Applied Ecology 7: 383387.
Jensen, RR Hardin, PJ (2007) Using satellite data to estimate urban leaf area index. In: Geo-Spatial Technologies in Urban Environments, eds. RR Jensen, JD Gatrell and D McLean, pp. 93107. Berlin, Germany: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Kowarik, I (2011) Novel urban ecosystems, biodiversity, and conservation. Environmental Pollution 159: 19741983.
Mafhoud, I (2009) Cartographie et Mesure de la Biodiversité du Mont Ventoux. Approche par Système d’Information Géographique et Télédétection, Préconisations Méthodologiques et Application pour l’Aménagement Forestier. Avignon, France: University of Avignon.
Marriot, CA, Hood, K, Fischer, JM Pakeman, RJ (2009) Long-term impacts of extensive grazing and abandonment on the species composition, richness, diversity and productivity of agricultural grassland. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 134: 190200.
Metson, AJ (1956) Methods of Chemical Analysis for Soil Survey Samples. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Middleton, BA, Holsten, B van Diggelen, R. (2006) Biodiversity management of fens and fen meadows by grazing, cutting and burning. Applied Vegetation Science 9: 307316.
Moinardeau, C, Mesléard, F Dutoit, T (2016) Using different grazing practices for increasing plant biodiversity in the dykes and embankments along the Rhone river (Southern France). Environmental Management 58: 984997.
Mulholland, B Fullen, MA (1991) Cattle trampling and soil compaction on loamy sands. Soil Use and Management 7(4): 189193.
Olsen, SR, Cole, CV, Watanabe, FS Dean, LA (1954) Estimation of Available Phosphorus in Soils by Extraction with Sodium Bicarbonate. Washington, DC, USA: US Department of Agriculture.
Pettorelli, N, Vik, JO, Mysterud, A, Gaillard, JM, Tucker, CJ Stenseth, NC (2005a) Using the satellite-derived NDVI to assess ecological responses to environmental change. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20(9): 504510.
Pettorelli, N, Ryan, S, Mueller, T, Bunnefeld, N, Bogumiła, J, Lima, M Kausrud, K (2011) The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI): unforeseen successes in animal ecology. Climate Research 46: 1527.
Pielou, EC (1969) An Introduction to Mathematical Ecology. New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Interscience.
Poschlod, P Wallis De Vries, MF (2002) The historical and socioeconomic perspective of calcareous grasslands – lessons from the distant and recent past. Biological Conservation 104: 361376.
Purevdorj, TS, Tateishi, R, Ishiyama, T Honda, Y (1998) Relationships between percent vegetation cover and vegetation indices. International Journal of Remote Sensing 19(18): 35193535.
R Core Team (2012) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Rosenthal, G, Schrautzer, J Eichberg, C (2012) Low-intensity grazing with domestic herbivores: a tool for maintaining and restoring plant diversity in temperate Europe. Tuexenia 32: 167205.
Roux, D, Roux, JP Debiesse, L (2007) Donzère-Mondragon: La Nature aux Portes de l’Urbain. Paris, France: Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage.
Stephens, DW Krebs, JR (1986) Foraging Theory. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
Tälle, M, Deák, B, Poschlod, P, Valkó, O, Westerberg, L Milberg, P (2016) Grazing vs. mowing: a meta-analysis of biodiversity benefits for grassland management. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 222: 200212.
Tälle, M (2018) Conservation of Semi-Natural Grasslands: Effects of Different Management Methods on Biodiversity. Linköping, Sweden: Linköping University Electronic Press.
Thomas, GW (1996) Soil pH and soil acidity. In: Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 3 – Chemical Methods, Soil Science Society of America Book Series 5, eds. DL Sparks, AL Page, PA Helmke, RH Loeppert, PN Soltanpour and MA Tabatabai, et al., pp. 475490. Madison, WI, USA: Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy.
Tison, JM, Jauzein, P Michaud, H (2014) Flore de la France Méditerranéenne Continentale. Turriers, France: Naturalia Publications.
Todd, SW, Hoffer, RM Milchunas, DG (1998) Biomass estimation on grazed and ungrazed rangelands using spectral indices. International Journal of Remote Sensing 19: 427438.
Tucker, CJ (1979) Red and photographic infrared linear combination for monitoring vegetation. Remote Sensing of Environment 8: 127150.
Turner, W, Spector, S, Gardiner, N, Fladeland, M, Sterling, E Steininger, M (2003) Remote sensing for biodiversity science and conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18(6): 306314.
Van Diggelen, R, Middleton, B, Bakker, J, Grootjans, AP Wassen, M (2006) Fens and floodplains of the temperate zone: present status, threats, conservation and restoration. Applied Vegetation Science 9: 157162.
Van Wieren, SE Bakker, JP (1998) Grazing for conservation in the 21st century. In: Grazing and Conservation Management. Conservation Biology Series 11 , eds. MFWallis De Vries, JPBakker and SEVan Weiren, pp. 349363. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.
Wallis De Vries, MF, Parkinson, AE, Dulphy, JP, Sayer, M Diana, E (2007) Effects of livestock breed and grazing intensity on biodiversity and production in grazing systems. 4. Effects on animal diversity. Grass and Forage Science 62(2): 185197.
Weiss, SB (1999) Cars, cows, and checkerspot butterflies: nitrogen deposition and management of nutrient‐poor grasslands for a threatened species. Conservation Biology 13(6): 14761486.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Appendix S1

 Word (1.2 MB)
1.2 MB
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Table S2

 Word (45 KB)
45 KB
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Table S1

 Word (30 KB)
30 KB
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Figure S3

 Word (78 KB)
78 KB
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Figure S2

 Word (303 KB)
303 KB
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Figure S1

 Word (254 KB)
254 KB
Supplementary materials

Moinardeau et al. supplementary material
Appendix S2

 Word (7.2 MB)
7.2 MB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed