Semi-natural grassland continuity, long-term land-use change and plant species richness in an agricultural landscape on Öland, Sweden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The study characterizes historical land-use change and the development of semi-natural grassland habitats, over 274 years, within a mosaic
agricultural landscape (22 km2) on the island of O¨ land (Sweden). We also explore the relationship between previous land-use, habitat continuity
and present-day vascular plant species richness in grassland patches. Land-cover maps, based on cadastral maps and aerial photographs, were
produced for six time-periods between 1723/1733 and 1994/1997. In 1723/1733, the landscape was dominated by grasslands, with arable land
surrounding the villages. The grassland area decreased throughout the study period and grassland patches became progressively more fragmented.
Present-day grasslands represent 18% of the grassland area in 1723/1733. The land-use structure of the early 18th century is still evident in the
modern landscape. The majority of the present-day grasslands are situated on former common grazing land and have had a continuity of at least
274 years: the remaining grasslands are younger and developed during the 20th century on arable or forested land. The proportion of plant species
that depend on grazing and are characteristic of semi-natural grasslands significantly reflects the continuity and previous land-use of grassland
sites. The study illustrates the way in which information on historical land-use and habitat continuity can help to explain the structuring of plant
assemblages in semi-natural grasslands within the modern landscape.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
  • Physical Geography


  • Rural landscape, Land-use history, Habitat continuity, Aerial photographs, Cadastral maps, Vascular plant species
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-211
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch