Influence of stocking rate on forage quality and diversity in Pyrenean subalpine grasslands: Can they recover if abandoned?
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Can subalpine grasslands recover their pristine conditions if they are abandoned? Since the mid-20th Century, the process of abandonment in European subalpine grasslands due to the decrease in the stocking rate has triggered changes in the forage quality and ecological characteristics of pastures. In
this paper we explain the changes (and tendencies) in forage quality and biodiversity in grasslands of Festuca eskia Ramond ex DC from the Aigüestortes National Park (Spanish Pyrenees) that were quasi-abandoned for some years and regained their stocking rate at the beginning of the 21st Century without great changes in climatic and edaphic conditions during the period. Results show a decrease in forage quality (measured as the content of crude protein, phosphorous, fat and pastoral value) and in specific richness at the beginning of abandonment and a regain when the stocking rate was restored. The changes in the variables studied over the period of loss and recovery of grazing show a direct relation to the changes in the functional groups. Keywords: grazing, Festuca eskia, specific richness, forage quality