- The ecological effects of water level fluctuation and phosphate enrichment in mesotrophic peatlands are strongly mediated by soil chemistry
- Ecological Engineering
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Since the re-establishment of a more natural water regime is considered by water management in wetlands with artificially stable water levels, the biogeochemical and ecological effects of water level fluctuation with different nutrient loads should be investigated. This is particularly important for bio-diverse mesotrophic fens, sensitive to acidification and eutrophication. Mesocosm experiments were conducted to study the interactive effects of water level fluctuation and P-enrichment under controlled summer conditions, using peat cores including vegetation from three fens differing in biogeochemical characteristics.
The effects of fluctuating water levels on biogeochemistry and vegetation appeared to be highly dependent on peat chemistry, and more important than the effects of P-enrichment. Only when plant growth was stimulated by a favorable water level regime, P-enrichment led to increased P-consumption by plants. In rich fens with a high soil Ca-content, 7 weeks of lowered water table (−15 cm) did not lead to a drop in pH. However, soil subsidence, increased N-availability and decline of the rich fen bryophyte Scorpidium scorpioides give cause to concern. 7 weeks of inundation (+15 cm) offered possibilities for restoration in these fens, since alkalinity and Ca-concentrations increased, while soil P-mobilization did not occur. Even P-enrichment did not result in increased P-availability, presumably due to Ca-related precipitation of P. In rich fens with a high soil Fe-content, water table lowering should be avoided as well, because of soil subsidence, increased N-availability, decline of the rich fen bryophyte Calliergon gigan-teum, plus acidification due to Fe-oxidation. Shallow inundation, however, is also harmful, especially after mowing and with P-rich water, because plant growth was hampered, presumably by toxicity of NH4+ and/or Fe(II). In mineral-poor fens with a high soil P-and S-content, shallow inundation should be avoided, because of tremendous internal P-mobilization. Vitality of the dominant bryophyte Sphagnum palustre, however, was not affected. Low water tables affected neither vegetation, nor biogeochemistry, showing resistance to short-term drought in these fens.
Given the strong mediating effect of soil chemistry, risks and benefits of re-establishment of fluctuating water levels with clean or P-rich water need to be considered for different fen types separately in water and nature management.
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