Long-term after effects of fertilization on above-ground phytomass and species diversity in calcareous grassland

Authors

  • J.H Willems,

    1. Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 800.84, NL-3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands; Fax +31 30 2518366
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  • M.G.L van Nieuwstadt

    1. Department of Plant Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 800.84, NL-3508 TB Utrecht, The Netherlands; Fax +31 30 2518366
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Abstract

Abstract. Long-term after effects on species number and productivity in calcareous grassland were analyzed after cessation of fertilization. Three series of permanent plots were monitored yearly from 1971 to 1993. These series differed in duration of fertilization and in fertilizer composition, notably the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Yearly above-ground production decreased in all series after fertilization had been stopped, however at different speeds. The grass/forb ratio also decreased, while species number and Shannon index of diversity (H') increased. In the series where fertilizer treatment was stopped in 1967 (1968-series), productivity and grass/forb ratio decreased equally as in the plots where fertilization with a high nitrogen content was stopped in 1979 (80/Npk-series). However, species number in the plots of the 80/Npk-series increased faster than in the 1968-series. This was probably the result of a higher number of species present in the seed rain from the surrounding vegetation in the period after 1980 than from after 1968.

In the plots receiving a high amount of phosphorus (80/nPk series), the productivity decreased more slowly than in the high nitrogen plots (80/Npk-series). At approximately the same total production level, the grass/forb ratio remained higher for another five-year period in the 80/nPk-series. Species number and the Shannon index of diversity increased more slowly in the 80/nPk-series than in the 80/Npk-series. Over a given range of productivity, changes in species number and Shannon index correlated better with the grass/forb ratio than with total above-ground phytomass. Therefore, restoration of species-rich grassland should not only be focused on lowering the yearly production, but also on reducing the grass component of the vegetation.

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