Strengbom J, Nordin A, Nasholm T, Ericson L
Slow recovery of boreal forest ecosystem following decreased nitrogen input
Functional Ecology: 2001 15:451-457
1. Ecosystem recovery after decreased input of nitrogen was examined in two different fertilization experiments where the fertilization had been terminated for 9 and 47 years, respectively. 2. The species composition of the understorey vegetation showed no signs of recovery 9 years after the fertilization was terminated. Increased sporocarp production of mycorrhizal fungi was seen on formerly fertilized plots compared with plots still receiving N, but the species composition showed large differences compared to control plots. 3. In the second experiment, examined 47 years after termination of fertilization, N favoured bryophytes such as Brachythecium reflexum (Starke) Schimp., Plagiothecium denticulatum (Hedw.) Schimp. and the leaf-parasitic fungus Valdensia heterodoxa Peyronel (attacking Vaccinium myrtillus L.) was more abundant in the formerly N-treated plots than in controls. The abundance of Hylocomium splendens (Hedw.) Schimp., the most common bryophyte under normal N conditions, showed a contrasting pattern, with less abundance in the formerly N-treated plots than in controls. Sporocarp production of N-sensitive mycorrhizal fungi was lower in the formerly N-treated plots. No difference in plant species composition was noticed for vascular plants. 4. These results contrast with other studies that have interpreted reduced N leakage and nutrient levels in trees after decreased N input as a rapid ecosystem recovery. The present study suggests that the time needed for recovery of the ecosystem biota may be substantial in originally N-limited ecosystems.
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