Can nutrient uptake by Carex counteract eutrophication in fen peatlands?
“Ground- and surface-water-fed peatlands (i.e., fens) of temperate Europe face high anthropogenic nutrient loads from atmospheric deposition, agricultural catchment areas, and from peat decomposition, if drained. As a result, nitrogen loads may exceed a fen’s natural nutrient removal capacity, leading to increased eutrophication of adjacent water bodies. Therefore, it is important to address possible means to decrease a fen’s nutrient load, including nutrient uptake by fen plants. To assess how much fen plants can contribute to nutrient removal by uptake, nutrient stocks of above- and below-ground biomass need to be quantified. Therefore, we investigated nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium uptake capacities of sedges (Carex species), which are common dominants in fen plant communities. We grew specimens of five Carex species with varying preferences in nutrient availability under controlled, different nutrient levels. We show that Carex above-ground biomass harvest can remove up to one third of a system’s total nitrogen even at high loads of about 40 g nitrogen m−2. Species-specific differences in biomass production, rather than preferences in nutrient availability under natural conditions, were drivers of standing nutrient stocks: Highly productive species, i.e., C. acutiformis and C. rostrata, had highest nutrient standing stocks across all nutrient levels. Amounts of nutrients stored in shoots increased almost linearly with increasing nutrient levels, whereas below-ground nutrient stocks species-specifically increased, saturated, or decreased, with increasing nutrient levels. As a rough estimate, depending on the species, 6–16 cycles of annual above-ground harvest would suffice to decrease nitrogen concentrations from the highest to the lowest level used in this study. Overall, our results indicate that Carex biomass harvest can be an efficient means to counteract anthropogenic nitrogen eutrophication in fens.”
(Citation: Hinzke, T., Tanneberger, F., Aggenbach, C.J.S., et al. – Can nutrient uptake by Carex counteract eutrophication in fen peatlands? – Science of The Total Environment 785(2021)art. no. 147276 – DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147276)
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