In European peatlands which have been drained and cut-over in the past, re-vegetation often stagnates after the return of a species-poor Sphagnum community. Re-introduction of currently absent species may be a useful tool to restore a typical, and more diverse, Sphagnum vegetation and may ultimately improve the functioning of peatland ecosystems, regarding atmospheric carbon sequestration. Yet, the factors controlling the success of re-introduction are unclear. In Ireland and Estonia, we transplanted small and large aggregates of three Sphagnum species into existing vegetation. We recorded changes in cover over a 3-year period, at two water levels (¿5 and ¿20 cm). Performance of transplanted aggregates of Sphagnum was highly species specific. Hummock species profited at low water tables, whereas hollow species profited at high water tables. But our results indicate that performance and establishment of species was also promoted by increased aggregate size. This mechanism (positive self-association) has earlier been seen in other ecosystems, but our results are the first to show this mechanism in peatlands. Our results do not agree with present management, which is aimed at retaining water on the surface of peat remnants in order to restore a functional and diverse Sphagnum community. More than the water table, aggregate size of the reintroduced species is crucial for species performance, and ultimately for successful peatland restoration.
- experimental plant-communities
- interspecific competition
- vascular plants