- Nitrogen deposition and grass encroachment in calcareous and acidic Grey dunes (H2130) in NW-Europe
- Biological Conservation
- Volume | Issue number
- 212 | B
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
We present an overview of high nitrogen deposition effects on coastal dune grasslands in NW-Europe (H2130), especially concerning grass encroachment in calcareous and acidic Grey Dunes. The problem is larger than previously assumed, because critical loads are still too high, and extra N-input from the sea may amount to 10 kg ha−1 yr−1. Grass encroachment clearly leads to loss of characteristic plant species, from approximately 16 in open dune grassland to 2 in tall-grass vegetation. Dune zones differ in grass encroachment, due to the chemical status of the soil. In calcareous and iron-rich dunes (Renodunal district), grass encroachment showed a clear gradient over the dune area. Grass encroachment is low in calcareous foredunes, due to low P-availability, and large grazers were not needed to counteract grass encroachment after 2001. In partly decalcified middle dunes, P-availability and grass encroachment are high due to dissolution of calcium phosphates, and grazing only partially helped to control this. In acidic, iron-rich hinterdunes, grass encroachment gradually increased between 1990 and 2014, possibly because P-availability increased with time due to increased soil organic matter content. In acidic, iron-poor dunes (Wadden district), grass encroachment is a large problem, because chemical P-fixation with Ca or Fe does not occur. Large grazers may however reduce tall-grass cover. High cumulative N-deposition could theoretically lead to increased N-storage and N-mineralization in the soil. Mineralization indeed increased with N-deposition, but in 15N experiments, most ammonium was converted to nitrate, and storage in soil organic matter was low. Soil N-storage is probably reduced by high nitrate leaching, which will favour dune restoration when N-deposition levels decrease.
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