, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 135-148

Control of plant growth by nitrogen and phosphorus in mesotrophic fens

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A fertilization experiment was carried out in 3 mesotrophic fens to investigate whether plant growth in these systems is controlled by the availability of N, P or K. The fens are located in an area with high N inputs from precipitation. They are annually mown in the summer to prevent succession to woodland. Above-ground plant biomass increased significantly upon N fertilization in the two “mid”-succession fens studied. In the “late”-succession fen that had been mown for at least 60 years, however, plant biomass increased significantly upon P fertilization. The mowing regime depletes the P pool in the soil, while it keeps N inputs and outputs in balance. A long-term shift occurs from limitation of plant production by N toward limitation by P. Hence, mowing is a suitable management tool to conserve the mesothrophic character of the fens.