Groundwater input affecting plant distribution by controlling ammonium and iron availability
Abstract:Question: How does groundwater input affect plant distribution in Alnus glutinosa (black alder) carrs?
Location: Alder carrs along the river Meuse, SE Netherlands.
Methods: Three types of site, characterized by groundwater flow, were sampled in 17 A. glutinos a carrs. Vegetation and abiotic data (soil and water chemistry) were collected and analysed using a Canonical Correspondence Analysis. Based on the results, a laboratory experiment tested the effect of groundwater input (Ca2+) on pore water chemistry (NH4+ availability).
Results: Environmental factors indicating groundwater input (Ca2+ and Fe2+), correlating with the NH4+ concentration in the pore water, best explained the variation in plant distribution. NH4+ availability was determined by Ca2+ input via the groundwater and subsequent competition for exchange sites in the sediment. As a result, nutrient-poor seepage locations fully fed by groundwater were dominated by small iron resistant plants such as Caltha palustris and Equisetum fluviatile. More nutrient-rich locations, fed by a combination of groundwater and surface water, allowed the growth of taller iron resistant plant species such as Carex paniculata. Nutrient-rich locations with stagnating surface water were hardly fed by groundwater, allowing the occurrence of fast growing and less iron tolerant wetland grasses such as Glyceria fluitans and G. maxima.
Conclusion: Groundwater input affects plant composition in A. glutinosa carrs along the river Meuse by determining nutrient availability (ammonium) and concentrations of toxic iron.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: August 1, 2006
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