, Volume 234, Issue 2, pp 171-179

Nutrient limitation along a productivity gradient in wet meadows

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Conservation management in meadows often focuses on reducing soil fertility and consequently community productivity as to promote and sustain species-rich vegetations. The productivity level to which nutrients are limiting growth is, however, unclear, as well as the relationship between productivity and the type of nutrient limitation. We carried out a fertilization experiment with N, P and K in six annually mown meadows along an aerial phytomass gradient (200–650 g m−2). All meadows were found to be growth-limited by nutrients. Low-productive meadows were N-limited, or N+P co-limited, whereas our higher productive meadows were co-limited by a combination of N, P and/or K. The results from our experiments were compared with the results from 45 other fertilization experiments with N, P and K in grasslands and wetlands (aerial phytomass range 50–1500 g m−2). Our results were consistent in nitrogen being the most frequent (co)-limiting nutrient, and regarding the equal frequence of occurrence of P (co)-limitation and K (co)-limitation (both in ca. 25–30% of all sites). Co-limitation occurred more often in our sites than in the other experiments. There was no clear relationship between aerial phytomass and type of nutrient limitation, except that K (co)-limitation only occurred at sites with phytomass above 200 g m−2, and P (co)-limitation below 600 g m−2. A comparison of productivity and nutrient concentrations in aerial phytomass among two years indicated that the type of nutrient limitation is not a static site characteristic but may vary with dynamic environmental conditions such as soil wetness; drought seems to enhance N-availability which may induce P- and K-limitation.