Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 5, pp 879–888 | Cite as

The combined effect of waterlogging, extractable P and soil pH on α-diversity: a case study on mesotrophic grasslands in the UK

  • Dana MichalcováEmail author
  • Joanne C. Gilbert
  • Clare S. Lawson
  • David J. G. Gowing
  • Rob H. Marrs


Developing a strategy for evidence-based conservation is often problematic where a given habitat is found on relatively few small sites. Here, we investigate the important environmental variables that control species α-diversity in wet mesotrophic grasslands in lowland England. We analysed data on species richness and three soils variables from 10 mesotrophic grasslands to test the following hypothesis: is species diversity related to these soil factors, and if so, which is the most important? Generalised linear modelling was used to derive minimum adequate models of these relationships. The analysis identified degree of waterlogging and its interaction with both soil available phosphorus and soil pH as significant. Species diversity decreased with increasing waterlogging and available phosphorus. If species richness is to be conserved in these mesotrophic grasslands, it would be best done by maintaining low levels of waterlogging (0–1 m weeks), and low available phosphorus concentrations (<10 μg P g−1). However, this approach may predicate against specialist wetland species. Our results will help develop sound conservation strategies for these mesotrophic grasslands, and points the way for further investigative research.


Available phosphorus Conservation GLM modelling Lowland grassland Species number Species richness 



We thank DEFRA and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust for funding the data collection; Kate Barber for helping with soil collection and analysis; and Mike Prosser, Hilary Wallace, and Owen Mountford for assistance with the collecting the botanical data. Dana Michalcová was supported by Institutional Research Plan MSM0021622416, Masaryk University. Milan Chytrý made valuable comments on an early draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana Michalcová
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Joanne C. Gilbert
    • 4
  • Clare S. Lawson
    • 3
    • 5
  • David J. G. Gowing
    • 3
    • 6
  • Rob H. Marrs
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Department of Botany and ZoologyMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Water and EnvironmentCranfield UniversitySilsoeUK
  4. 4.RSPB The LodgeSandy, BedfordshireUK
  5. 5.CAERUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  6. 6.Department of Biological SciencesOpen UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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