Question: Why is bryophyte succession in eutrophicated fens faster than in natural fens?
Location: Mineral-rich fens in The Netherlands and NW Europe.
Methods: Literature review on the ecology of four bryophyte species in various successional types as observed in Dutch fens.
Results: Bryophyte succession in eutrophicated fens from the brown moss Calliergonella cuspidata to Sphagnum squarrosum is much faster than in natural fens with species shifts from Scorpidium scorpioides to Sphagnum subnitens. Under P-poor conditions, the brown moss stage is stabilized as long as mineral-rich water is supplied. This is because S. scorpioides is tolerant of rainwater, is a strong competitor and can counteract acidification to some extent while S. subnitens is intolerant to groundwater and has low growth rates and low acidification capacity. In contrast, the Sphagnum stage is stable after rapid succession from rich-fen mosses under P-rich conditions. Calliergonella cuspidata has suboptimal growth in rainwater, possibly due to ammonium toxicity, while the high growth rates of S. squarrosum in nutrient-rich and highly acidic groundwater allow early establishment and rapid expansion.
Conclusions: If measures to improve fen base status occur in environments of increased nutrient (P) availability, the management may not lead to the desired restoration of brown moss stages, but instead to rapid acidification by S. squarrosum.
Abbreviations: EC = Electrical conductivity, IR = Ionic ratio