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Keywords:

  • creation;
  • habitat heath;
  • mycorrhiza;
  • restoration ecology;
  • symbiosis

Abstract

Methods used in the restoration of lowland heath vary depending on edaphic factors at a site and need for introduction of ericaceous propagules. This study investigates the effect of some methods on growth of an important ericaceous species, Heather (Calluna vulgaris). It also explores whether success of growth of C. vulgaris in restoration schemes is affected by its degree of colonization by ericoid mycorrhizal fungi (ERM). The success of Heather growth was compared at three sites, a control area of natural heathland and two restoration sites. These were a quarry where soil had been translocated but not chemically manipulated and a site on agricultural land where the top soil had been improved but then either stripped away or acidified prior to attempting heathland restoration. Propagules of C. vulgaris were applied either as turves or as clippings. Results show that clippings produced as dense a cover of C. vulgaris as turves over a period of 13 years and that plants in such swards can exhibit a degree of ERM colonization comparable to that found in mature plants growing in natural heathland. Young (<2 years of age) plants of C. vulgaris had less extensive mycorrhizal colonization of their roots, particularly when growing on restored agricultural soils. A relationship was found between lower levels of mycorrhizal colonization and smaller aboveground plant growth. Success of heathland restoration may be improved by finding means to enhance the rate and extent of mycorrhizal colonization of young C. vulgaris growing in a restoration environment.