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Stimulated Growth of Betula pubescens and Molinia caerulea on Ombrotrophic Bogs: Role of High Levels of Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition
Hilde B. M. Tomassen, Alfons J. P. Smolders, Leon P. M. Lamers and Jan G. M. Roelofs
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 91, No. 3 (Jun., 2003), pp. 357-370
Published by: British Ecological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3599550
Page Count: 14
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1 In order to test whether the observed invasion of ombrotrophic bogs in the Netherlands by Molinia caerulea and Betula pubescens is the result of long-term high nitrogen (N) loads, we conducted a 3-year fertilization experiment with Sphagnum fallax turfs. Six different N treatments were applied ranging from 0 (control) to 4 g N m-2 year-1. 2 During the experimental period, ammonium concentrations in the peat moisture remained very low due to high uptake rates by Sphagnum. Tissue N concentrations in S. fallax showed a linear response to the experimental N addition. Excess N was accumulated as N-rich free amino acids such as arginine, asparagine and glutamine, especially at N addition rates of 0.25 g m-2 year-1 or higher, indicating N-saturation. 3 Despite the high tissue N: P ratio (above 35), above-ground biomass production by Molinia was still stimulated at N addition rates of 4 g m-2 year-1, and foliar nutrient concentrations were unaffected compared to the control. In contrast to Molinia, Betula was unable to increase its above-ground biomass. Foliar N concentrations in Betula were significantly higher at N addition rates of 4 g m-2 year-1 and excess N was stored in foliar arginine, making up 27% of the total N concentration. Evapotranspiration was increased at higher N addition rates due to stimulated total above-ground biomass production of the vegetation. 4 N addition at the actual Dutch deposition rate of 4 g m-2 year-1 stimulated the growth of Molinia in this experiment, providing evidence that the observed dominance of Molinia on ombrotrophic bogs in the Netherlands is caused by high N deposition levels. Based on the observed changes in biomass production and tissue nutrient concentrations, we assume that a long-term deposition of 0.5 g N m-2 year-1, or higher, leads to undesirable changes in species composition and increased risk of desiccation.
Journal of Ecology © 2003 British Ecological Society