Prospects for fen meadow restoration on severely degraded fens
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Perspectives in plant ecology, evolution and systematics. - Stuttgart
, p. 245-255
University of Antwerp
The majority of fens in Europe have been transformed for agricultural purposes and have disappeared or become degraded. Fen meadows that developed under low-intensity management of fens also have become degraded. In this paper, we consider the available restoration methods, biotic constraints for restoration and new prospects and approaches for the restoration of severely degraded fens. Due to irreversible changes in landscape settings, hydrology, soil and trophic conditions, a full restoration to natural mires is unlikely. Yet, an improvement of the ecosystem functions and revival of biodiversity in degraded fens is possible. A restoration of semi-natural meadows is one of the alternative targets. Important for restoration efforts to succeed are a sufficient reduction of nutrient levels and preventing acidification. In general, a combination of topsoil removal and seed transfer is an effective measure for fen meadow restoration, provided that groundwater seepage can be re-established. There are also several biotic limitations to fen meadow restoration, due to limited propagule availability of target species and the legacy of the former vegetation in form of its soil seed bank and high seed production by unwanted species. Under the present environmental conditions, the re-development of fen meadows on degraded fens will result in species compositions different from those observed in the past and such restoration may require considerable time and effort.