Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 49–62 | Cite as

Is rewetting enough to recover Sphagnum and associated peat-accumulating species in traditionally exploited bogs?

  • E. GonzálezEmail author
  • S. W. Henstra
  • L. Rochefort
  • G. E. Bradfield
  • M. Poulin
Original Paper


When restoring ecosystems, the simple removal of stresses causing degradation may seem preferable over other more costly and time consuming approaches. However, some restoration techniques can be implemented at reasonable cost and with increased efficiency in certain cases. We examined the successional trajectories of vegetation within abandoned block-cut peatlands in a major peat-producing region of Eastern Canada to evaluate whether the use of rewetting as a restoration technique can assist in the recovery of a typical bog plant community dominated by Sphagnum compared to spontaneous recolonization alone. We surveyed a total of 55 trenches in 6 peatlands twice, ~25 and ~35 years after the cessation of peat extraction. Canonical ordinations evidenced a generalized process of afforestation during the decade studied, partially driven by agricultural drainage in the surrounding landscape. Plant communities were dominated by ericaceous shrubs that hampered the spontaneous recovery of a Sphagnum-dominated system typical of bogs in the short and medium-term. Three of the six peatlands surveyed were partially restored by blocking drainage ditches. There, we surveyed plant composition in rewetted (28) and non-rewetted (26) trenches and observed that rewetting mitigated the increase in tree dominance, decreased the dominance by ericaceous shrubs, and favored the spread of non-vascular species with a wet habitat preference (notably Sphagnum species from the Cuspidata section). We conclude that the use of low intervention restoration techniques in block-cut bogs, such as the blockage of former drainage ditches, can re-orient undesired vegetation trajectories driven by spontaneous recolonization alone.


Ecosystem recovery Mires Ombrotrophic peatlands Partial redundancy analysis Vegetation change Wetland restoration Rehabilitation 



Financial support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Department of Natural Resources of New Brunswick, the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association and its members. We would like to thank Stéphanie Boudreau for databank management. Thanks also to the members of the Peatland Ecology Research Group and the numerous students who assisted in field surveys and laboratory data management.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. González
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. W. Henstra
    • 2
  • L. Rochefort
    • 1
  • G. E. Bradfield
    • 2
  • M. Poulin
    • 1
  1. 1.Peatland Ecology Research Group and Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Department of BotanyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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