, Volume 220, Issue 1-2, pp 35-47

Nutrient limitations in wet, drained and rewetted fen meadows: evaluation of methods and results

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Abstract

Restoration of wet grassland communities on peat soils involves management of nutrient supply and hydrology. The concept of nutrient limitation was discussed as well as its interaction with drainage and rewetting of severely drained peat soils. Different methods of assessing nutrient limitation were compared and the type and extent of nutrient limitation were determined for several wet grassland communities. It was concluded that a full-factorial field fertilisation experiment is the most preferable method. Plant tissue analyses and soil chemical analyses were considered less suitable, although they may provide helpful additional information. Fertilisation experiments in the laboratory using sods or using test plants appear to be the proper means to study mechanisms or processes, but have a restricted predictive value for field situations. Generalising the results, it seems that many relativily undisturbed grassland plant communities on peaty soils are characterised by N limitation. Phosphate limitation for vegetation on peat soils is mainly observed in specific circumstances such as extreme calcium richness, high concentrations of Fe or as a result of drainage or long-term hay cropping. The latter two may also cause K limitation. Rewetting is regarded as a prerequisite in restoring wet grassland communities. Further restoration measures to influence nutrient availability depend on aims of the management and the individual site conditions.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.