Rabbits Rule: evaluating livestock grazing in coastal sand dunes of Meijendel, the Netherlands
During the last five decades, the vegetation in Dutch coastal dunes has changed from open, sandy dunes and species-rich grasslands into tall grasses, shrubland and forest, with a considerable loss of local biodiversity. Autumn 1990, year-round grazing by cows and ponies was introduced in the Meijendel dunes to counteract these developments. My PhD thesis evaluates the impact of this introduction.
Changes occurred, but other factors than livestock grazing explain them. The decrease of nitrogen deposition since 1990, and changes in climate have been more important than the modest impact of livestock grazing. Most of all, the dunes miss the specific grazing on young sprouts of trees and shrubs, and hole digging activity of rabbits.
So, apart from active cutting of trees and shrubs, the number of rabbits has to grow to let rabbits rule again in the praised and N2000-protected landscape of the lime-rich coastal sand dunes of Meijendel.