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Decreased summer water table depth affects peatland vegetation

Decreased summer water table depth affects peatland vegetation
Decreased summer water table depth affects peatland vegetation

Climate change can be expected to increase the frequency of summer droughts and associated low water tables in ombrotrophic peatlands. We studied the effects of periodic water table drawdown in a mesocosm experiment. Mesocosms were collected in Southern Sweden, and subsequently brought to an experimental field in the Netherlands. Two water table treatments were applied: one with constant water tables at 5 cm below the moss surface, and one in which the water table was allowed to drop, resulting in water tables fluctuating between 5 and 21 cm below the moss surface. Sphagnum growth, as well as Sphagnum and vascular plant abundance, were assessed for 2 frac(1, 2) years. Our results show that the abundance of graminoid species increased most in the constant water table treatment. In contrast, ericoid species cover increased when water tables were allowed to fluctuate. Furthermore, Sphagnum cuspidatum production decreased with fluctuating summer water tables, while Sphagnum magellanicum responded oppositely. From these results we conclude that increased occurrence of periods with low water tables may bring about a shift in dominant Sphagnum species as well as a shift from graminoid to ericoid vascular plant cover, resembling the shift from hollow to lawn or hummock vegetation. The difference in response within functional groups (vascular plants, Sphagnum) may add to the resilience of the ecosystem.

Climate change, Competition, Ecosystem functioning, Environmental change, Periodic drought, Resilience, Species replacement, Sphagnum, Vascular plants, Vegetation shift
1439-1791
330-339
Breeuwer, Angela
50f6b3a4-6839-4420-bc17-a1b08a81cad5
Robroek, Bjorn J. M.
06dcb269-687c-41db-ab73-f61899617f92
Limpens, Juul
5000684f-2c46-4ac5-bc49-c4df4fa4da4a
Heijmans, Monique M P D
b425bd97-3826-40f5-ac93-27609ae32af2
Schouten, Matthijs G C
b956b925-4c42-4725-b3e9-f2d44bd50e93
Berendse, Frank
93c8d1e5-65ee-45ae-80d0-8e42e08ad007
Breeuwer, Angela
50f6b3a4-6839-4420-bc17-a1b08a81cad5
Robroek, Bjorn J. M.
06dcb269-687c-41db-ab73-f61899617f92
Limpens, Juul
5000684f-2c46-4ac5-bc49-c4df4fa4da4a
Heijmans, Monique M P D
b425bd97-3826-40f5-ac93-27609ae32af2
Schouten, Matthijs G C
b956b925-4c42-4725-b3e9-f2d44bd50e93
Berendse, Frank
93c8d1e5-65ee-45ae-80d0-8e42e08ad007

Breeuwer, Angela, Robroek, Bjorn J. M., Limpens, Juul, Heijmans, Monique M P D, Schouten, Matthijs G C and Berendse, Frank (2009) Decreased summer water table depth affects peatland vegetation. Basic and Applied Ecology, 10 (4), 330-339. (doi:10.1016/j.baae.2008.05.005).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Climate change can be expected to increase the frequency of summer droughts and associated low water tables in ombrotrophic peatlands. We studied the effects of periodic water table drawdown in a mesocosm experiment. Mesocosms were collected in Southern Sweden, and subsequently brought to an experimental field in the Netherlands. Two water table treatments were applied: one with constant water tables at 5 cm below the moss surface, and one in which the water table was allowed to drop, resulting in water tables fluctuating between 5 and 21 cm below the moss surface. Sphagnum growth, as well as Sphagnum and vascular plant abundance, were assessed for 2 frac(1, 2) years. Our results show that the abundance of graminoid species increased most in the constant water table treatment. In contrast, ericoid species cover increased when water tables were allowed to fluctuate. Furthermore, Sphagnum cuspidatum production decreased with fluctuating summer water tables, while Sphagnum magellanicum responded oppositely. From these results we conclude that increased occurrence of periods with low water tables may bring about a shift in dominant Sphagnum species as well as a shift from graminoid to ericoid vascular plant cover, resembling the shift from hollow to lawn or hummock vegetation. The difference in response within functional groups (vascular plants, Sphagnum) may add to the resilience of the ecosystem.

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More information

Published date: July 2009
Keywords: Climate change, Competition, Ecosystem functioning, Environmental change, Periodic drought, Resilience, Species replacement, Sphagnum, Vascular plants, Vegetation shift

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 413680
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/413680
ISSN: 1439-1791
PURE UUID: ee19236b-7e15-4bee-92b6-db6d388fd9fe
ORCID for Bjorn J. M. Robroek: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6714-0652

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 31 Aug 2017 16:31
Last modified: 26 Nov 2019 01:27

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