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The Effects of Peatland Restoration on Water‐Table Depth, Elemental Concentrations, and Vegetation: 10 Years of Changes

Haapalehto, Tuomas O., Vasander, Harri, Jauhiainen, Sinikka, Tahvanainen, Teemu, Kotiaho, Janne S.
Restoration ecology 2011 v.19 no.5 pp. 587-598
biogeochemical cycles, drainage, ecological succession, ecosystems, fens, habitats, monitoring, peat, peatlands, plant communities, trees, vegetation, Finland
We studied the effects of restoration on water‐table depth (WTD), element concentrations of peat and vegetation composition of peatlands drained for forestry in southern Finland. The restoration aimed to return the trajectory of vegetation succession toward that of undisturbed systems through the blockage of ditches and the removal of trees. Permanent plots established on a bog and a fen were sampled 1 year before, and 1, 2, 3, and 10 years after the restoration. The restoration resulted in a long‐term rise of the water‐table in both peatlands. Ten years after restoration, the mineral element concentrations (Ca, K, Mg, Mn, and P) of peat corresponded to those reported from comparable pristine peatlands. In particular, the increase of K and Mn concentrations at both sites suggests the recovery of ecosystem functionality in terms of nutrient cycling between peat and plants. The restoration resulted in the succession of plant communities toward the targeted peatland vegetation of wetter condition at both sites. This was evident from the decreased abundance of species benefiting from drainage and the corresponding increase of peatland species. However, many species typical of pristine peatlands were missing 10 years after restoration. We conclude that the restoration led to a reversal of the effects of drainage in vegetation and studied habitat conditions. However, due to the slow recovery of peatland ecosystems and the possibility that certain failures in the restoration measures may become apparent only after extended time periods, long‐term monitoring is needed to determine whether the goals of restoration will be met.