Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 507743
Title Species-rich grassland can persist under nitrogen-rich but phosphorus-limited conditions
Author(s) Dobben, Han F. van; Wamelink, Wieger; Slim, Pieter A.; Kamiński, Jan; Piórkowski, Hubert
Source Plant and Soil 411 (2017)1. - ISSN 0032-079X - p. 451 - 466.
Department(s) Alterra - Vegetation, forest and landscape ecology
Alterra - Biodiversity and policy
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2017
Keyword(s) Biomass production - Co-limitation - Drained peat - Grassland - Mowing - Nutrient limitation - Poland - Species richness

Aim: Deposition of nitrogen is assumed to cause loss of botanical diversity, probably through increased production and exclusion of less competitive species. However, if production is (co-)limited by phosphorus, acceleration of the phosphorus cycle may be responsible for the diversity loss and, where that is the case, nitrogen emission reduction may turn out to be an ineffective mitigation strategy. Here we study the feasibility of this mechanism through adding potassium and phosphorus to grassland where nitrogen limitation is absent. Methods: We made vegetation relevés in a long-term agricultural fertilisation experiment where potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen were being added to grassland on drained peat where nitrogen availability was high, even in unfertilised plots. We applied a multivariate analysis to investigate the effect of additions of K, K + P and K + P + N on the species composition. Results: Unfertilised plots had a very low biomass production and were rich in plant species despite their high nitrogen availability. Addition of potassium led to a strongly increased production but did not result in a reduction of species numbers. Phosphorus in addition to potassium increased production still further and decreased species numbers, most notably the number of endangered species. Conclusions: Even under nitrogen rich conditions species richness may be high in grasslands where phosphorous provides a limitation to plant growth. Phosphorus limitation and phosphorus enrichment are both common in grassland, at least in north-western Europe. Part of the general decrease in species numbers that is commonly ascribed to nitrogen enrichment may therefore be due to phosphorus enrichment. If phosphorus and nitrogen are co-limiting (which is often the case) the current nitrogen emission reduction policies may be effective, but not sufficient to restore grassland diversity to its pre-industrial level.

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