The species-rich calcareous grassland communities in Europe are gradually disappearing due to lack of management such as grazing or cultivation, resulting in decalcification and reduction of gaps in the vegetation. In this study, experimental soil perturbation (deep and shallow) was performed in degenerated sandy grassland in plots with a size of 8 x 8 m, using a randomised block design. The hypothesis that soil perturbation that inverts the soil layers decreases nutrient availability, creates vegetation gaps and thereby selects for desirable species was tested through comparisons with untreated controls as well as with nearby target habitats. The deep perturbation was designed to bring CaCO3 up to the surface, whereas the shallow perturbation tested the effect of disturbance alone. The effects of soil perturbation on soil chemistry, vegetation and beetle communities were analysed for the 2 years following the treatments. Increased pH and calcium concentration, and decreased nitrogen and phosphorus availability, showed that deep perturbation was successful in restoring the soil chemistry to levels similar to those of the target habitat. Perturbated plots were rapidly colonised by the acid tolerant grass Corynephorus canescens, but the slow colonisation of the threatened calcicole species Koeleria glauca was an indication that the vegetation could be evolving towards the target vegetation. Six red-listed beetle species associated with open, dry grasslands were found, out of which four were found only in perturbated plots, although this could not be statistically tested. In conclusion, it may take many years or even decades for the establishment of desirable flora, and seeding could therefore be a suitable method of increasing the rate of succession.