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Species Dynamics and Nutrient Accumulation During Early Primary Succession in Coastal Sand Dunes

H. Olff, J. Huisman and B. F. Van Tooren
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 693-706
DOI: 10.2307/2261667
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2261667
Page Count: 14
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Species Dynamics and Nutrient Accumulation During Early Primary Succession in Coastal Sand Dunes
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Abstract

1 The present study reports on a primary succession series which started on bare soil on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog after the building of a sand dike. Vegetational changes were studied for 18 years by means of permanent transects along a topographic gradient from a moist plain to dry dunes. Soil development and vegetation structure were reconstructed using a chronosequence. A fertilizer experiment was set up in an intermediate successional stage in the plain and on the dune, in order to determine which soil resources limited productivity. 2 Differences in salinity, flooding and moisture content were important determinants of the differences in species composition along the topographic gradient. In addition, year-to-year fluctuations of these factors seem to be responsible for the year-to-year fluctuations in frequency of occurrence of many short-lived species. These factors did not, however, show a consistent long-term trend over time. 3 From soil analyses and the nutrient addition experiment, it is concluded that nitrogen limited above-ground biomass production. Over a period of about 16 years the total amount of nitrogen in the organic layer of the soil increased from 7 to 50 g N m$^{-2}$ in the plains and from 1 to 15 g N m$^{-2}$ on the dunes. 4 The accumulation of nitrogen during the successional series is accompanied by an increased biomass, a decreased light penetration to the soil surface, a decreased root/shoot ratio, increasing dominance of tall species, and a decreasing abundance of small, short-lived species. These data suggest that the importance of light competition is increasing during succession. 5 The importance of plant height versus light reduction at the soil surface in determining the outcome of light competition is discussed.

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