Can Sphagnum removal reverse the undesired succession of rich fens under different alkalinity and fertility levels?
|Year of publication||2022|
|Type||Article in Periodical|
|Magazine / Source||Ecological Applications|
|MU Faculty or unit|
|Keywords||brown moss; fertility; field experiment; moss transfer; rich fen conservation; rich fen restoration; Sphagnum removal; undesired succession|
|Description||An undesired succession of rich fens leads to the formation of dense Sphagnum carpets that outcompete brown mosses and some vascular plants, resulting in biodiversity loss in fen habitats of high conservation importance. Small-scale Sphagnum removal is a rarely implemented conservational measure, whose success may depend on soil alkalinity and fertility (i.e., nutrient availability). Therefore, characterizing the effects of pH and fertility levels would potentially allow for the development of better Sphagnum removal strategies. Two experiments were conducted across 24 rich fens of different alkalinity and fertility located in an area of similar to 32,000 km(2) spanning from the Bohemian Massif to the Western Carpathians (Europe). We hypothesized that high alkalinity and low fertility support the restoration of rich fen vegetation after Sphagnum removal. Our study focused on four different Sphagnum groups. In Experiment 1, the treatment plots remained unfenced. In Experiment 2, the treatment plots were fenced off and target brown mosses were transplanted from the surroundings to overcome dispersal limitations. A repeated-measures design was used, with vegetation composition recorded over a 5-year period. High alkalinity rather than fertility facilitated species richness and the appearance of target brown mosses. High alkalinity generally hindered Sphagnum recovery, whereas high fertility supported the recurrence of S. teres and S. recurvum agg. Under high pH conditions, enhanced fertility further correlated with the spread of nonsphagnaceous generalist bryophytes of low conservation value. Despite sustaining a significant overall reduction, all Sphagnum taxa began to recover throughout the experiment, albeit less obviously in fens with S. warnstorfii. Sphagnum removal may reverse biodiversity loss and allow for the restoration of brown mosses in rich fens where Sphagnum cover had increased due to slight eutrophication, acidification, or a decrease in the water table. In alkaline and nutrient-poor conditions (e.g., S. warnstorfii fens), the effect is evident and long lasting and the intervention may not be extensive. In fens dominated by S. teres or S. recurvum agg., repeated or large-scale removal may be needed if high nutrient availability (potassium, phosphorus) or low alkalinity supports Sphagnum recolonization. Treatment plots with S. subgenus Sphagnum exhibited the least promising brown-moss restoration prospects.|