In 20 municipalities of the Northern and Central Eastern Alps of Switzerland grasslands of the three management types extensive ecological compensation area (ECA), low intensive ECA and conventional meadows were investigated. Based on botanical relevés, the ecological quality of each meadow was assessed according to the Environmental Quality Ordinance (EQO). We found that the ecological quality of both ECA types was much higher in the Alpine region than in the lowlands. 94 % of the extensive ECA and 67 % of the low intensive ECA reached the quality required by the EQO quality standards. The main plant communities of the extensive ECA were nutrient-poor grasslands and grasslands of the type Trisetetum. On average, 26 indicator species meeting the EQO were found on nutrient-poor grasslands. The conventional meadows were dominated by Dactylis glomerata and contained only a few indicator species, but the average yield and fodder value were the highest. The low intensive ECA play an important role in the mountain region. Compared to the lowlands, they show a larger spatial extension. A high proportion of these areas satisfies the EQO quality criteria and contributes to closed nutrient cycles. Thus, it is concluded that the support for this type of ECA with direct payments has to be maintained in the future.
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