The declining quality of late-Holocene ombrotrophic communities and the loss of Sphagnum austinii (Sull. ex Aust.) on raised bogs in Wales

Hughes, P.D.M., Lomas-Clarke, S.H., Schulz, J. and Jones, P. (2007) The declining quality of late-Holocene ombrotrophic communities and the loss of Sphagnum austinii (Sull. ex Aust.) on raised bogs in Wales. The Holocene, 17, (5), 613-625. (doi:10.1177/0959683607078985).


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The modern floristic composition of the principal raised bogs of Wales is significantly altered compared with their histories of development from the early to mid Holocene. This paper uses pollen and plant macrofossil records from two raised bogs together with previously published data from a further two sites to explore the key factors contributing to the present condition of Welsh ombrotrophic plant communities. Results show Betula and Molinia invasion is a recent feature of bog development in Wales. Previous Holocene `dry-phases' were characterized by Ericaceae and Pinus establishment, supporting recent experimental evidence that Betula and Molinia encroachment is primarily a response to nitrogen (N) loading rather than desiccation on intact bogs. Several of the bogs featured in this study also show severe signs of structural damage, not only from peat cutting but, in the case of Cors Caron, from channel processes in the adjacent River Teifi. Radiocarbon dating and inter-site comparisons of peat accumulation rates show that Rhos Goch Common in particular has been heavily impacted by peripheral peat cutting, leading to dewatering, significant subsidence of its peat dome and the spread of hummock and high dry ridge communities. Finally, the decline and local extinction of Sphagnum austinii in bogs across Europe represents one of the most significant changes in ombrotrophic community composition in the late Holocene. Co-registered pollen and macrofossil evidence from Cors Caron demonstrates that increases in landuse intensity over the last 2000 years are temporally associated with reductions in the abundance of S. austinii and ultimately its local disappearance from the palaeoecological record.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1177/0959683607078985
Additional Information: European raised bog communities are significantly altered compared with past development. This paper analyses causes of community change in a key nation for bog biodiversity with a long land use history. Notably, the decline of S.austinii (principal mid-Holocene peat former) is temporally associated with land use intensification and climate change.
ISSNs: 0959-6836 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: macrofossils, pollen, late holocene, succession, sphagnum austinii, land use, ombrotrophic communities, palaeoecology, raised bogs, mires, wales
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Q Science > QH Natural history
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Geography > Environmental Processes and Change
ePrint ID: 48186
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
July 2007Published
26 September 2006Submitted
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:24

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