Grassland with tradition: sampling across several scientific disciplines

The post provided by Monika Janišová

This Video Summary, prepared by Monika Janišová, refers to the article by Monika Janišová, Anamaria Iuga, Cosmin Marius Ivascu and Martin Magnes Grassland with tradition: sampling across several scientific disciplines, published in Vegetation Classification and Survey (

In most European countries, traditional farming is no longer practiced; it has been either substantially modified or replaced by modern farming approaches. However, in some remote mountain areas and in several regions of Eastern Europe, historic land use patterns and farming approaches have survived to the present day. Similarly, the local ecological knowledge of the rural inhabitants has been preserved in these areas, which may become a tool for effective conservation of grassland biodiversity.

In traditional landscapes, each piece of land has a different ownership structure, different management schemes and different histories. The simple typology distinguishing between meadows (mown grasslands) and pastures (grazed grasslands) used nowadays in Western Europe does not cover the whole scale of applied management techniques and does not reflect the multidimensionality of traditional farming. It is often the case that each traditional land parcel represents a category of its own.

We developed a sampling methodology to survey traditionally managed grassland ecosystems holistically, including abiotic, biological and cultural phenomena, and reflect thus the multidimensionality of traditional farming. Our main objective was to reveal the connection between particular management practices and precisely measured plot plant diversity. Our motivation was to identify traditional farming approaches that result in both high biodiversity and sustainable grassland utilization in a particular region, and confirm their impact also using statistical tests.

The multitaxon vegetation sampling at seven spatial scales combined with soil analyses, detailed land-use information derived from interviews with the land parcel owners, satellite pictures and historical materials provide potentially valuable data for several scientific disciplines, including syntaxonomy, plant ecology, environmental anthropology and ethnology. Examples of grassland management practices based on traditional ecological knowledge can serve as an inspiration for developing modern biodiversity conservation strategies applicable to rural regions.

The database Grassland with Tradition is registered in the Global Index of Vegetation-Plot Databases (GIVD) with the identifier ID EU-00-032. To date, it contains data from 31 study sites in 7 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Ukraine).

Our research was supported by the National Geographic Society, grant NGS-288R-18 on “Carpathian grasslands – genuine celebration of cultural and natural diversity“, and by the Slovak Academy of Sciences, grant VEGA 2/0095/19 on “Traditional ecological knowledge for grassland conservation and restoration“.

We thank our sponsors and very many people who contributed to the fieldwork, plant identification, analyses or logistics, as well as linguistic editing of our publications. Special thanks go to local farmers and inhabitants for their hospitality and for sharing their knowledge, food, and other resources.

Here are links to some of the project results:

Carpathian bio-cultural heritage – a well of wisdom for modern biodiversity conservation (presentation at the online-congress “Visions for Transition – How agriculture and cities of the future can save biodiversity”, May 2020)

Species-rich grasslands of the Apuseni Mts (Romania): role of traditional farming and local ecological knowledge (research paper in Tuexenia 40, 2020)