Plant and Soil

, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 137–143 | Cite as

Distribution and decline of endangered herbaceous heathland species in relation to the chemical composition of the soil

  • A. L. F. M. Houdijk
  • P. J. M. Verbeek
  • H. F. G. Van Dijk
  • J. G. M. Roelofs
Research Article


High atmospheric deposition of ammonium affects the physical and chemical status of the soil, increasing nitrogen availability, soil acidity and the mobilization of toxic metal ions. To investigate whether and how the decline of several herbaceous plant species in Dutch heathlands is associated with these processes, the chemical composition of the soil on which these species grow has been compared with the soil on which heathland species such asCalluna vulgaris (L.) Hull,Erica tetralix L. andMolinea caerulea (L.) Moench dominate.

The discrimination between both soil types was primarily based on differences in pH (H2O), pH (NaCl) and the aluminium/calcium ratio in the waterextracts. Within the group of endangered herbaceous heathland species these soil parameters also varied. This led to a division into 4 groups of species:


  • Dominating species growing on acid soils

  • Herbaceous species growing together with dominating species on acid soils

  • Herbaceous species growing together with dominating species on moderately acid soils

  • Herbaceous species growing together with dominating species on weakly acid soils.

This study indicated that, unlike the decline of heather species, the decline of herbaceous species is not likely to be due to increased competition from grass species as a result of eutrophication. Soil acidification and the changed mineral balance in the soil are most likely to be responsible for the decline of all three groups of herbaceous plant species. ei]R F Huettl

Key words

acidification Calluna vulgaris chemical soil-composition decline of herbaceous heathland species eutrophication Erica tetralix Molinia caerulea 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. L. F. M. Houdijk
    • 1
  • P. J. M. Verbeek
    • 1
  • H. F. G. Van Dijk
    • 1
  • J. G. M. Roelofs
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Section Environmental EcologyCatholic University of NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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