Photo: Monika Podgorelec

Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on carbonate soils

The habitat type semi-natural dry grassland and scrubland facies on carbonate soils (Festuco-Brometalia) (HT_6210 *) is a semi-natural habitat type that developed as a result of traditional land use accompanied by grazing and mowing. These are meadows and pastures on limestones, dolomites and, to a lesser extent, flysch or sands and old gravel bars. The sites are dry, light and warm, while the substratum is neutral or slightly alkaline, with meagre nutrients. They do not tolerate heavy moisture and water stagnation, but need shallow, fast-draining soils.

In times past, this was one of the most widespread grassland types in Slovenia. It was developed and preserved as a result of extensive use of meadows, which constitute an important ecosystem and are one of the most diverse areas with exceptional biodiversity. Even up to 80 different plant and animal species can be found in a square metre of this type of grassland. Rare wild-growing orchids also proliferate on these sites.

Threat factors

Due to overgrowing and grassland conversion to forest on the one hand and excessively intensive cultivation for agricultural purposes (too frequent mowing, grass silage baling, intensive grazing and excessive application of nutrients through fertilization and conversion of grasslands in arable land) on the other hand, grasslands have become one of the most endangered habitats with the greatest biodiversity decline. Semi-natural dry grasslands are also threatened by the abandonment of extensive use of agricultural land and intensive spread of areas with nonindigenous invasive plant species.

Project activities

The role of farmers and their extensive activities (particularly extensive mowing and livestock grazing) is indispensable in maintaining, improving and re-establishing the target habitat type. In order to improve the conservation status of semi-natural dry grasslands, we shall therefore re-establish grasslands through removal of wood biomass and invasive nonindigenous plants, through restoration of turfgrass and by extensive land management. The favourable condition of semi-natural dry grasslands in this area will also have a strong positive impact on numerous other Natura 2000 species. With the aim of raising public awareness as to the importance of preserving semi-natural dry grasslands and their species diversity, educational interpreton point is to be set up.


How can we contribute to preserving the habitat type and its species diversity?

  • To invigorate the grassturf and to establish species-rich meadows, we can additionally sow local indigenous hay residues from extensively managed meadows where no invasive alien plants (such as Policeman’s Helmet, Giant Goldenrod, Japanese Knotweed) have been present. By doing so, the establishment of locally characteristic species-rich meadows is enhanced. The meadows should be mown moderately. In order to maintain species diversity in dry grasslands, mowing is recommended to be carried out once to twice a year. Let us observe the meadow and the flowers. The first mowing is recommended to take place as late as June, after the grasses have produced seeds and wild orchids have ceased blooming.
  • Mowing of the meadow should not be carried out in circles from the outer side of the meadow towards its interior, but from the centre of the meadow outwards or from one side of the meadow towards the other. This gives birds and other animals time to retreat and thus more chances to survive.
  • In pastures, pens are to be set up, between which livestock is to be shifted. At the same time, the consequences of the number of livestock animals in the pasture are to be monitored. Bare patches of soil should not occur in pens as a result of too intense grazing, for this causes soil erosion.
  • Consistently remove nonindigenous invasive species.
  • The grass is not to be mulched but mown and harvested like hay.

Did you know that …

  • up to 80 different plant and animal species can be found in a square meter of a semi-natural dry extensively managed grassland;
  • as many as 79 species and subspecies of orchids thrive in Slovenia;
  • orchids are among the endangered plants owing to human encroachments into nature (drainage and destruction of wetlands, fertilization and overgrown meadows). The rules in the Red List of endangered plant and animal Species from 2002 also include 65 plant species from the orchid family (Orchidaceae). Among them, 6 species are classified as endangered (E), 46 as vulnerable (V), 12 as rare (R), and 1 as a presumed extinct species (Ex?).

Sources and literature