Although numerous studies have addressed the effects of increased N deposition on nutrient-poor environments such as raised bogs, few studies have dealt with to what extent, and on what time-scale, reductions in atmospheric N supply would lead to recovery of the ecosystems in question. Since a considerable part of the negative effects of elevated N deposition on raised bogs can be related to an imbalance in tissue nutrient concentrations of the dominant peat-former Sphagnum, changes in Sphagnum nutrient concentration after excess N supply may be used as an early indicator of ecosystem response. This study focuses on the N and P concentrations of Sphagnum magellanicum and Sphagnum fallax before, during and after a factorial fertilization experiment with N and P in two small peatlands subject to a background bulk deposition of 2 g N m(-2) year(-1). Three years of adding N (4.0 g N m(-2) year(-1)) increased the N concentration, and adding P (0.3 g P m(-2) year(-1)) increased the P concentration in Sphagnum relative to the control treatment at both sites. Fifteen months after the nutrient additions had ceased, N concentrations were similar to the control whereas P concentrations, although strongly reduced, were still slightly elevated. The changes in the N and P concentrations were accompanied by changes in the distribution of nutrients over the capitulum and the stem and were congruent with changes in translocation. Adding N reduced the stem P concentration, whereas adding P reduced the stem N concentration in favor of the capitulum. Sphagnum nutrient concentrations quickly respond to reductions in excess nutrient supply, indicating that a management policy aimed at reducing atmospheric nutrient input to bogs can yield results within a few years.
- atmospheric nitrogen deposition
- vascular plants
- phosphorus availability
- boreal forest