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Keywords:

  • agricultural soil;
  • ecological restoration;
  • Juncus effusus;
  • liming;
  • Olsen-P;
  • phosphorus;
  • topsoil removal

Abstract

More and more agricultural land in the Netherlands is becoming available for ecological restoration projects. However, nutrient levels in the top layer of the soils are high because the agricultural lands have been heavily fertilized for decades. As drainage ditches are no longer maintained when agricultural use ends, the agricultural lands usually become much wetter. As a result, former agricultural soils tend to develop extensive monotonous stands of Juncus effusus, which have little value from an ecological point of view. In this article, we present the results of field measurements/observations and experiments to examine the relationship between nutrient availability and J. effusus growth. In addition, we present and discuss results of experiments to study the potential beneficial effects of liming. Our findings show that the growth of J. effusus on moist or wet soils seems to be strongly determined by the Olsen-P concentration in the soil. The restoration of diverse, species-rich vegetation types on former agricultural lands with a noncalcareous sandy soil will in most cases not be possible within a reasonable time span without topsoil removal. Liming might be a valuable additional measure to enhance the quality of the soil after topsoil removal, and to prevent mobilization of P to groundwater or surface water. If removal of the topsoil is considered to create P limitation, it is important to study P concentrations at various depths to establish the amount of soil that has to be removed.