Nutrient limitation and nutrient-driven shifts in plant species composition in a species-rich fen meadow

D. van der Hoek, A.J.E.M. van Mierlo, J.M. van Groenendael

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Question: We studied the development and persistence of the effects of nutrient pulses on biomass production and species composition in a fen meadow. Location: Nature reserve, central Netherlands, 5 m a.s.l. Methods: Single pulse fertilization with N and P in a factorial design on an undrained central and a drained margin site in a species-rich fen meadow (Cirsio dissecti-Molinietum). Biomass production and species composition were monitored during four years. Results: At the central site, N addition boosted biomass production, but only during one year. The species composition was not changed. P fertilization increased the biomass production and changed the species composition from a vegetation dominated by Carex panicea to a grassland community with abundant Holcus lanatus, but not before the second year. At the margin site, P fertilization changed the species composition in a similar way, but biomass production was not increased. N fertilization had no effect. At both sites the P induced shift in species composition persisted for four years although the P effect declined during the experiment. Conclusions: The biomass responses show that N was limiting in the central site. Another nutrient, besides N and P (probably K) must have been limiting in the marginal site. The fast decline of the N effect on biomass is ascribed to increased denitrification and biomass removal. The delay in the P effect on biomass and species composition and the persistence of the P effect on species composition are ascribed to fast immobilisation and subsequent slow release of fertilizer P in the peat soil. Recurrence of the P pulses is expected to cause permanent changes in species composition
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-396
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • species diversity
  • plant ecology
  • biomass
  • flooding
  • eutrophication
  • peat soils
  • nitrogen
  • nature reserves
  • fens
  • netherlands
  • gelderland
  • mineral-nutrition
  • wild plants
  • vegetation
  • availability
  • enrichment
  • phosphorus
  • community
  • diversity
  • tundra

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