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Long-term effects of drainage and initial effects of hydrological restoration on rich fen vegetation

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Abstract:

Questions: What vegetational changes does a boreal rich fen (alkaline fen) undergo during a time period of 24 years after drainage? How is plant species richness affected, and what are the changes in composition of ecological groups of species? Is it possible to recover parts of the original flora by rewetting the rich fen? Which are the initial vegetation changes in the flora after rewetting? What are the major challenges for restoration of rich fen flora after rewetting?

Location: Eastern central Sweden, southern boreal vegetational zone. Previously rich fen site, drained for forestry purposes during 1978-1979. The site was hydrologically restored (rewetted) in 2002.

Method: Annual vegetation survey in permanent plots during a period of 28 years.

Results: There were three successional stages in the vegetational changes. In the first stage there was a rapid (< 5 years) loss of rich fen bryophytes. The second step was an increase of sedges and early successional bryophytes, which was followed by an increase of a few emerging dominants, such as Molinia caerulea, Betula pubescens and Sphagnum spp. After rewetting, there are indications of vegetation recovery, albeit at slow rates. Depending on, for instance, initial species composition different routes of vegetation change were observed in the flora after drainage, although after 24 years, species composition became more homogenous and dominated by a few species with high cover.

Conclusion: Major changes have occurred after changes in the hydrology (drainage and rewetting) with a severe impact on the biodiversity among vascular plants and bryophytes. Several rich fen bryophytes respond quickly to the changes in water level (in contrast to vascular plants). The recovery after rewetting towards the original rich fen vegetation is slow, as delayed by substrate degradation, dispersal limitation and presence of dominant species.

Keywords: BRYOPHYTE; LONG-TERM STUDY; MIRE; REWETTING; SUCCESSION; WETLAND RESTORATION

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3170/2007-7-18329

Publication date: 2008-02-01

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