An overview of the vegetation history of Calthion palustris meadows is presented with special emphasis on the natural habitats of the character species. The response of meadow species under the influence of drainage was calculated using species-environment response curve techniques. The changes were monitored in permanent plots situated on sites with various intensities of drainage. The similarity with an undisturbed local reference type of the hay meadow community was calculated for all plots and years. On this basis a half-life time of the Calthion palustris stands could be assessed. The half-life time was small in the plots which are most affected by drainage. The response to drainage of character species of the Calthion palustris was very different. This imposes problems for some definitions of the community concept.