Rare and fragmented chalk grasslands may take at least half a century to recover from the damage done to them by military training, according to new research published in the British Ecological Societys Journal of Applied Ecology.
Working with historical aerial photographs taken on the Salisbury Plain Training Area between 1945 and 1995, Dr Rachel Hirst and colleagues from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the University of Liverpool identified 82 sites from which they sampled vegetation and soil. They found that, while neutral (mesotrophic) grasslands took between 30 and 40 years to re-establish after disturbance during military training, areas of chalk grassland took at least 50 years to recover.
The long-lasting damage is due not only to vegetation being destroyed by tanks and shelling but also by soil compaction. According to Hirst: "Large military vehicles can change the horizontal and vertical structure of vegetation communities through the crushing and cutting of vegetation, and soil compaction effects decrease soil microporosity and rainfall infiltration capacity, altering nutrient availability and restricting root growth."
Lynne Miller | EurekAlert!
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