• Colonization;
  • Field experiment;
  • Harvested peatland;
  • NPK-fertilization;
  • Soil condition;
  • Vegetation structure

Abstract. The relationship between substrate quality and pattern of revegetation of harvested peat surfaces was studied by means of a survey and a field experiment examining influences of modest NPK-fertilization on plant colonization of an initially bare peat surface. The harvested peat surfaces varied a great deal in their chemical and physical characteristics and the sites differed in revegetation pattern. Early successional vegetation was dominated by perennial species native to nutrient-poor habitats on all sites. Soluble phosphorus and ash content, mean particle size of surface peat, and thickness of peat layer had the strongest influence in a CCA-ordination of species. The species composition depended on the amount and form of soluble nitrogen in the surface peat. Sites with a high content of phosphorus and ammonium nitrogen, and with a thick peat layer were usually densely revegetated by Eriophorum vaginatum alone, while sites characterized by thin peat layers associated with a high ash content, large particle size and a high content of nitrate nitrogen were mainly dominated by different grass and weed species. Deschampsia cespitosa clearly favoured sites with a high potassium content and small particle sizes of the peat.

The importance of nutrient availability for the rate and pattern of colonization was also demonstrated by the field experiment. Application of 20 g/m2 of NPK-fertilizer resulted in a significant increase in the number of established plant individuals and marked differences in species composition compared to unfertilized plots.