Journal article

Carbon addition alters vegetation composition on ex-arable fields

  • Eschen, René CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre, Delémont, Switzerland - Department of Biology, Unit Ecology and Evolution, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Mortimer, Simon R. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, The University of Reading, UK
  • Lawson, Clare S. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, The University of Reading, UK
  • Edwards, Andrew R. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, The University of Reading, UK
  • Brook, Alex J. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, The University of Reading, UK
  • Igual, José M. IRNASA-CSIC, Salamanca, Spain
  • Hedlund, Katarina Department of Ecology, Lund University, Sweden
  • Schaffner, Urs CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre, Delémont, Switzerland
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Published in:
  • Journal of Applied Ecology. - 2007, vol. 44, no. 1, p. 95–104
English 1. Recent changes in European agricultural policy have led to measures to reverse the loss of species-rich grasslands through the creation of new areas on ex-arable land. Ex-arable soils are often characterized by high inorganic nitrogen (N) levels, which lead to the rapid establishment of annual and fast-growing perennial species during the initial phase of habitat creation. The addition of carbon (C) to the soil has been suggested as a countermeasure to reduce plant-available N and alter competitive interactions among plant species.2. To test the effect of C addition on habitat creation on ex-arable land, an experiment was set up on two recently abandoned fields in Switzerland and on two 6-year-old restoration sites in the UK. Carbon was added as a mixture of either sugar and sawdust or wood chips and sawdust during a period of 2 years. The effects of C addition on soil parameters and vegetation composition were assessed during the period of C additions and 1 year thereafter.3. Soil nitrate concentrations were reduced at all sites within weeks of the first C addition, and remained low until cessation of the C additions. The overall effect of C addition on vegetation was a reduction in above-ground biomass and cover. At the Swiss sites, the addition of sugar and sawdust led to a relative increase in legume and forb cover and to a decrease in grass cover. The soil N availability, composition of soil micro-organisms and vegetation characteristics continued to be affected after cessation of C additions.4.Synthesis and applications. The results suggest that C addition in grassland restoration is a useful management method to reduce N availability on ex-arable land. Carbon addition alters the vegetation composition by creating gaps in the vegetation that facilitates the establishment of late-seral plant species, and is most effective when started immediately after the abandonment of arable fields and applied over several years.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Biologie
  • English
Biological sciences
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