With appropriate management, based on vegetation removal that reverses late-successional vegetation stages, roadsides can support high levels of biodiversity. However, current recommendations for roadside management to conserve or restore biodiversity are largely based on research on non-roadside grassland habitats, and much of the evidence on how roadside management practices affect biodiversity is found in non-peer-reviewed grey literature.
This article reports the findings of a full systematic review of the effects on plant and invertebrate diversity of disturbance-based maintenance of roadsides. Nearly all of the 54 studies included in the review were conducted in Europe or North America.
The review found no statistically significant overall effects of mowing compared with no mowing, frequency of mowing, timing of mowing or hay removal. However, species richness was higher in roadsides mowed once or twice per year with hay removal than in unmown roadsides, and positively affected by mowing twice compared to once per year.
The articles also identifies large knowledge gaps concerning roadside management and its effects on biodiversity, especially regarding invertebrates. Hence, this systematic review provides not only a valuable basis for evidence-based management but also guidance for future research on this topic, essential to inform management of road networks for biodiversity conservation.