- Nitrogen or phosphorus limitation in rich fens? - Edaphic differences explain contrasting results in vegetation development after fertilization
- Plant and Soil
- Volume | Issue number
- 384 | 1-2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Background and aims
Many rich fens are threatened by high nutrient inputs, but the literature is inconsistent with respect to the type of nutrient limitation and the influence of edaphic characteristics.
We performed experiments with N- and P-fertilization in three endangered rich fen types: floating fen with Scorpidium scorpioides, non-floating fen with Scorpidium cossonii, floodplain fen with Hamatocaulis vernicosus. In addition, K-fertilization was carried out in the floodplain fen.
The floodplain fen showed no response to P-addition, but N- and K-addition led to grass encroachment and decline of moss cover and species richness. In contrast, in the P-limited floating fen with S. scorpioides, P-addition led to increased vascular plant production at the expense of moss cover. Scorpidium scorpioides, however, also declined after N-addition, presumably due to ammonium toxicity. The fen with S. cossonii took an intermediate position, with NP co-limitation. These striking contrasts corresponded with edaphic differences. The N-limited fen showed low Ca:Fe ratios and labile N-concentrations, and high concentrations of plant-available P and Fe-bound P. The P-limited fen showed an opposite pattern with high Ca:Fe ratios and labile N-concentrations, and low P-concentrations.
This implies that edaphic characteristics dictate the nature of nutrient limitation, and explain contrasting effects of N- and P-eutrophication in different fens.
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