Changes in plant biomass in fens in the vechtplassen area, as related to nutrient enrichment
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Species-rich floating fen ecosystems in former turf ponds in the western part of The Netherlands are subject to nitrogen enrichment because of high atmospheric N deposition (50 kg ha−1,Y−1,). and supply of polluted river water in dry summer periods. Further, some fens have become more influenced by rain water because downward seepage to the groundwater has increased due to hydrological alterations. This paper describes changes in plant biomass production by comparing seasonal maximum biomass values for 15 fen sites determined with standard procedures in 1981 and 1988. Fen sites in different polders showed different species composition, which is related to differences in hydrology and history of fen management among the polders. The ‘mid-succession’ fens (type 1) which are characteristically N-limited have shown a biomass increase in spite of the annual mowing regime, which shows that these fens are becoming enriched with nitrogen. There are indications that the role of phosphorus as a limiting factor increases in these fens, and that a shift of N-limited towards P-limited phanerogam growth occurs. This may bring these fens eventually in the ‘late-succession’ stage, as presently found in Het Hol (type 2). The fens in this stage are P-limited and have a different species composition. It was concluded that the mesotrophic fens in the Vechtplassen area, characterized by a species-rich vegetation, can only persist in their eutrophicated environment if they are located in a groundwater discharge area and if they are annually harvested in the summer. If all fens in the area, will eventually become P-limited it is expected that the species composition will change to a more uniform ’late-succession’ vegetation type.
Keywordsfens wetlands biomass production nitrogen deposition nutrient enrichment eutrophication
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