Hedwall PO, Nordin A, Brunet J, Bergh J
Compositional changes of forest-floor vegetation in young stands of Norway spruce as an effect of repeated fertilisation
Forest Ecology and Management: 2010 259:2418-2425

Forestry practices that aim to increase biomass production may mitigate climate change through increased carbon sequestration and the potential of substituting fossil fuels with renewable biofuels. Fertilising young stands of Norway spruce in Sweden have shown to increase tree growth by more than 200%. Fertilisation, however, also has other effects on forest ecosystems. Here, we studied the response of the species composition of forest-floor vegetation to three different frequencies of fertilisation in young stands of Norway spruce. Fertiliser was applied every year, every second year or every third year. The total amount of N ranged from 425 kg ha−1 to 625 kg ha−1, in combination with P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Mn, Zi, B and Cu. The largest effects of the fertilisation were found among bryophytes and lichens, which lost substantial cover. Unexpectedly, Deschampsia flexuosa, commonly known to be favoured by fertilisation, was negatively affected. Species that increased in frequency were Oxalis acetosella, Brachythecium sp. and Plagiothecium sp. Decreased availability of light, as an indirect effect of fertilisation through increased tree canopy cover, was found to be the most important factor behind the change in species composition of vascular plants. The total cover of bryophytes, however, did not show any significant response to the changes in canopy cover, indicating that the effects seen in this group may be a result of more direct effects of the fertiliser. Few significant differences were found between the two most intensive fertilisation frequencies, although fertilisation every third year was often distinguished from both the control and the other fertilised treatments. Even though the effects at the stand level were substantial, the effects on biodiversity and function of ecosystems on a landscape or regional level need further investigation.

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