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Origin and development of grasslands in Central Europe

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Chapter Summary

Grasslands in central Europe are mostly of anthropogenous origin. The exceptions are the areas in alpine regions with extremely dry or wet conditions such as in and along rivers, outcrops and wetlands. However, in certain places such as central Bohemia, settlement may even have started before closed forests existed. Despite this fact, grassland plants may have occurred in the central European landscape before human settlement. They would have occurred in the above mentioned habitats and also in more open forests or on open islands within forests initiated by local breakdown through obsolescence of trees, insect infestations or wind throw and maintained by animals such as beavers and mega herbivores. These herbivores might have been responsible for the re-immigration of grassland species after the last ice age. Phylogenetic evidence of both survival and re-immigration in central Europe was recently demonstrated for a dry grassland species, Eryngium campestre.

Keywords: Central Europe; central Europe grasslands; Eryngium campestre; Grasslands; herbivores; human settlement



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