Biomass production of the last remaining fen with Saxifraga hirculus in Switzerland is controlled by nitrogen availability
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- Venterink, H.O. & Vittoz, P. Bot. Helv. (2008) 118: 165. doi:10.1007/s00035-008-0861-z
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Olde Venterink H. and Vittoz P. 2008. Biomass production of the last remaining fen with Saxifraga hirculus in Switzerland is controlled by nitrogen availability. Bot. Helv. 118: 165 – 174.
For conservation management of endangered plants it is important to know which nutrient(s) control growth of the vegetation, because maintenance of low nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) or potassium (K) availability requires different management measures. The aim of this study was to determine the type of nutrient limitation for the vegetation in the last remaining site with Saxifraga hirculus in Switzerland, using nutrient ratios in the aboveground vegetation as an indicator. We made vegetation relevees, collected biomass of the vascular plants, and took soil samples in three plots at this site. The biomass was very low (152–231 g m -2), and all three plots were clearly N-limited with N:P ratios of 7– 8. Soil extractable N concentrations were generally low, and P and K concentrations were moderate to high, which was consistent with the indicated N limitation. Hence conservation management first of all needs to prevent N-enrichment, and needs to avoid increased mineralization rates through drainage, or the accumulation of N in the system from atmospheric deposition. Therefore N output seems required through for instance grazing or mowing. The current grazing management seems to function well, since total aboveground biomass is very low and S. hirculus has a high abundance in this last remnant.