The study characterizes historical land-use change and the development of semi-natural grassland habitats, over 274 years, within a mosaic agricultural landscape (22 km2) on the island of O¨ land (Sweden). We also explore the relationship between previous land-use, habitat continuity and present-day vascular plant species richness in grassland patches.
Land-cover maps, based on cadastral maps and aerial photographs, were
produced for six time-periods between 1723/1733 and 1994/1997. In 1723/1733, the landscape was dominated by grasslands, with arable land surrounding the villages. The grassland area decreased throughout the study period and grassland patches became progressively more fragmented.
Present-day grasslands represent 18% of the grassland area in 1723/1733. The land-use structure of the early 18th century is still evident in the modern landscape. The majority of the present-day grasslands are situated on former common grazing land and have had a continuity of at least 274 years: the remaining grasslands are younger and developed during the 20th century on arable or forested land.
The proportion of plant species
that depend on grazing and are characteristic of semi-natural grasslands significantly reflects the continuity and previous land-use of grassland sites. The study illustrates the way in which information on historical land-use and habitat continuity can help to explain the structuring of plant assemblages in semi-natural grasslands within the modern landscape.
2008. no 84, 200-211 p.
"Aerial photographs", "Cadastral maps", "Habitat continuity", "Land-use history", "Rural landscape", "Vascular plant species"