Forb species abundance and richness determine both ecological and social values in naturalistic meadows in urban landscapes. However, species loss and dominance through competition are naturally part of meadow ecological processes often leading on productive soils to large grass biomass in the absence of appropriate management. Sowing density is a design tool to manipulate the initial number of emergents of each component species however high sowing densities may not benefit community performance in terms of species richness and diversity in the longer term. This study investigated the effect of sowing density on forb species abundance, biomass and richness. Two sowing densities approximating to 500 and 1,000 emerged seedlings/m2 were employed with 29 forb and one grass species. The higher sowing density did not lead to a larger grass biomass that dominated the community, as the grass species used was ultimately less competitive than the forb dominants. Increasing sowing density increased the number of forb seedlings initially but this declined, as did species richness in the longer term. In terms of subordinate forb survival, ability to access light resources to survive intense competition from dominants was key. Tall, and native species were more likely to maintain higher seedling numbers in the longer term. The research suggest that lower sowing rates are likely to be most useful on soils which are either unproductive, do not contain a significant weed seed banks, where weed free sowing mulches are employed or in rural situations where there is less immediate political pressure for rapid development of forb rich meadows.
- Designed meadows
- Forb biomass
- Sowing rates
- Species competition and dominance