Is livestock grazing a key factor for changing vegetation patterns in lime rich coastal dunes in the Netherlands?

Harrie G.J.M. van der Hagen, Dan Assendorp, Wim Calame, Frank van der Meulen, Karlè V. Sýkora, Joop H.J. Schaminée

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 1990, livestock grazing was introduced in Meijendel, a 1800 ha lime-rich coastal dune area, at a density of 0.06–0.07 LLU.ha-1.year−1 (1:12–18 ha) to counteract encroachment of tall grasses and shrubland on dune grassland and increase the bare sand area. Monitoring was based on four digital orthophotos (1975–1990–2001-2009) with a high spatial resolution (pixel size 25 × 25 cm). The changes were tested using Generalized Estimating Equations. Habitat changes occurred, but contradicting our hypothesis, there was no significant impact from the grazing on bare sand, grassland or shrubland within 11 and 19 years post livestock introduction. (1) After several decennia of decreasing bare sand, there was a significant increase between 2001 and 2009, irrespective of livestock presence. (2) The changes in grasslands and shrublands are independent of the livestock, but dependent on distance to the coast. (3) Bare sand and shrub cover determine the space left for the dune grasslands. It appears other factors than livestock grazing must have induced the changes. Changes in climate conditions and nitrogen load might have stimulated bare sand. An interaction with the end of Marram planting in 1990 cannot be concluded from available data. The disease-led reduction of rabbit grazing from the mid-1950s led to an expansion of the dominant shrub Hippophae rhamnoides. However, Hippophae shrubland typically regresses to grasslands on its collapse after 25–40 years. Tree species like Crataegus, Betula and Quercus will gradually dominate the landscape for far longer. Active removal of these indigenous species is necessary to prevent future loss of dune grasslands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerial photographs
  • Blowout
  • Coastal dunes
  • Hippophae rhamnoides
  • Livestock grazing
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus

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