Restoration of acidified and eutrophied rich fens: Long-term effects of traditional management and experimental liming

J. van Diggelen, I.H.M. Bense, E. Brouwer, J. Limpens, J.M. van Schie, A.J.P. Smolders, L.P.M. Lamers

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Rich fens are known for their high botanical diversity encompassing many endangered species. For decades, several management measures, including mowing and burning, have been applied to maintain a high biodiversity by means of slowing down the natural succession from calcareous rich fens to acidic poor fens or woodland. In this study, we assessed the long-term effects of these traditional management measures, and explored the effectiveness of liming as a measure to restore rich fen vegetation. Effects of summer mowing, and of burning after winter mowing, were assessed by comparing current (2013) and historical (1967) vegetation data. Effects of experimental liming, using different levels of lime addition (0, 1000, 2000, and 4000 kg Dolokal/ha), were monitored in the field during 7.5 years. Summer mowing led to more acidic and nutrient-poor conditions as indicated by a shift from rich to poor fen vegetation, including a well-developed bryophyte cover dominated by Sphagnum with some threatened species. Burning (after winter mowing) counteracted acidification but increased nutrient availability, as indicated by dominance of vascular species characteristic of productive tall-herb grasslands and a sparse bryophyte cover with common species. We conclude that the traditional measures were unable to maintain rich fen composition in the long term. Given the fact that the restoration of hydrological conditions, favouring rich fens, is not always feasible, liming could be an alternative to counteract acidification and improve rich fen conditions in the short term. This measure, however, appeared to be unsustainable as the re-establishment and dominance of Sphagnum spp. seriously complicated the development of rich fen vegetation in the longer term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-216
JournalEcological Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • fens
  • eutrophication
  • acidification
  • ecological restoration
  • liming
  • vegetation development
  • nutrient availability
  • nitrogen deposition
  • surface-water
  • groundwater
  • phosphorus
  • level
  • limitation
  • wetlands

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