- Filtering fens: Mechanisms explaining phosphorus-limited hotspots of biodiversity in wetlands adjacent to heavily fertilized areas
- Science of the Total Environment
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
The conservation of biodiverse wetland vegetation, including that of rich fens, has a high priority at a global scale. Although P-eutrophication may strongly decrease biodiversity in rich fens, some well-developed habitats do still survive in highly fertilized regions due to nutrient filtering services of large wetlands. The occurrence of such nutrient gradients is well-known, but the biogeochemical mechanisms that determine these patterns are often unclear. We therefore analyzed chemical speciation and binding of relevant nutrients and minerals in surface waters, soils and plants along such gradients in the large Ramsar nature reserve Weerribben-Wieden in the Netherlands.
P-availability was lowest in relatively isolated floating rich fens, where plant N:P ratios indicated P-limitation. P-limitation can persist here despite high P-concentrations in surface waters near the peripheral entry locations, because only a small part of the P-input reaches the more isolated waters and fens. This pattern in P-availability appears to be primarily due to precipitation of Fe-phosphates, which mainly occurs close to entry locations as indicated by decreasing concentrations of Fe- and Al-bound P in the sub-aquatic sediments along this gradient. A further decrease of P-availability is caused by biological sequestration, which occurs throughout the wetland as indicated by equal concentrations of organic P in all sub-aquatic sediments.
Our results clearly show that the periphery of large wetlands does indeed act as an efficient P-filter, sustaining the necessary P-limitation in more isolated parts. However, this filtering function does harm the ecological quality of the peripheral parts of the reserve. The filtering mechanisms, such as precipitation of Fe-phosphates and biological uptake of P, are crucial for the conservation and restoration of biodiverse rich fens in wetlands that receive eutrophic water from their surroundings. This seems to implicate that biodiverse wetland vegetation requires larger areas, as long as eutrophication has not been seriously tackled.
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