Plant Ecology

, Volume 155, Issue 1, pp 47-60

First online:

The sensitivity of a species-rich flood-meadow plant community to fertilizer nitrogen: the Lužnice river floodplain, Czech Republic

  • Chris JoyceAffiliated withSchool of the Environment, University of Brighton

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Concerns over the relative stability or sensitivity of biologicallydiverse ecosystems in relation to environmental change include the effects ofland-use intensification on diverse plant communities. This paper examines thesensitivity of a floristically diverse flood-meadow under hay-cutting managementto nitrogen enrichment, this being a key component of intensified agriculturalmanagement. A gradient of fertilizer nitrogen treatments was applied to a sitein the Czech Republic in two successive seasons and plant community response wasmonitored using measures of species diversity, cover and above-ground primaryproduction. Results show that diversity was supported by annual hay-cuttingmanagement and that the community was highly sensitive to nitrogen enrichment.Fertilization at rates consistent with intensive agricultural practice reducedspecies richness significantly within eight weeks, with forbs and mossparticularly susceptible. The cover and biomass of some grasses were stimulatedby fertilization until constrained by litter accumulation. Over two seasons,fertilization significantly reduced species diversity and simplified communitystructure as inter-specific competitive relations shifted. Biologically diverseflood-meadows therefore seem to be vulnerable to agricultural intensificationand other human activities that promote enhanced nitrogen levels.

Agricultural intensification Biodiversity Ecological sensitivity Fertilization Floodplain grasslands Grassland management Nitrogen