Sod cutting and soil biota effects on seedling performance

K. Weijtmans, E. Jongejans, J. van Ruijven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Sod cutting (i.e. top soil removal) is a restoration management option for enhancing seedling establishment and for lowering the nutrient concentration in eutrophicated soils of nutrient-poor species-rich grasslands. Removal of the upper soil changes not only abiotic soil properties but may also affect the resident soil community. We investigated the effects of sod cutting on the establishment and performance of two endangered plant species (Cirsium dissectum and Succisa pratensis) while simultaneously manipulating the interaction between seedlings and soil biota. In intact grassland and sod-cut areas at two localities, seedlings were grown in plastic tubes. Half of the tubes had a filter that excluded roots but allowed entry of fungal hyphae and soil microorganisms. The other tubes were closed (i.e. no contact with the surrounding soil). In a greenhouse experiment we studied the effect of soil solutions (with or without fungal tissue) from three grasslands and three sod-cut areas on seedling growth. Sod cutting had a positive net effect on seedling growth for S. pratensis. Access to (mycorrhizal) fungi and other soil biota resulted in a negative impact on seedling growth of both plant species, both in grassland and sod-cut areas. The greenhouse experiment confirmed that the soil biota in these meadows reduced seedling growth. Although sod cutting did not mitigate negative plant-soil feedback, it enhanced seedling growth, presumably by decreasing competition for light. Sod cutting is therefore very useful when seedling establishment needs to be stimulated
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-656
JournalActa Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • succisa-pratensis
  • cirsium-dissectum
  • plant-communities
  • fen-meadow
  • total p
  • grassland
  • restoration
  • diversity
  • heathland

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