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Water or soil—What is the dominant driver controlling the vegetation pattern of degraded shallow mountain peatlands?

Glina, Bartłomiej, Piernik, Agnieszka, Hulisz, Piotr, Mendyk, Łukasz, Tomaszewska, Klara, Podlaska, Magda, Bogacz, Adam, Spychalski, Waldemar
Land degradation & development 2019 v.30 no.12 pp. 1437-1448
base saturation, bedrock, bicarbonates, bogs, calcium, correspondence analysis, discriminant analysis, ecosystems, environmental factors, fens, forestry, hydrochemistry, monitoring, nitrates, pH, peatlands, phosphorus, planning, temperate zones, vegetation, Poland
The aim of this paper was to evaluate the link between environmental conditions and the vegetation pattern of mountain peatlands drained for forestry. We assumed that (a) water chemistry and soil properties differ between the investigated peatlands types—from fen to bog, (b) the vegetation pattern is dependent on water chemistry and soil properties, and (c) water chemistry and soil properties play different roles in determining peatland patterning. For our study, five ecologically and topographically diverse forestry‐drained shallow peatlands in Central Sudetes, Poland, were selected. A comparison between the studied peatlands and environmental variables was done by discriminant analysis, whereas vegetation–environmental relationship was analysed by canonical correspondence analysis. Results demonstrated that pH, HCO₃⁻, NO₃⁻, and Ca²⁺ best explained the variation in water chemistry (approximately 74%), whereas base saturation, pHwₐₜₑᵣ, and plant‐available phosphorus best explained the variation in soil properties. Plant assemblages within the peatlands exhibited three vegetation clusters that did not always correspond to peatland ecological type. The vegetation was mostly affected by water chemistry (explained up to 54% of variation), rather than by soil properties. Vegetation within such ecosystems seems to be a good indicator of differences in water chemistry, caused by differences in bedrock (soligenic fen peatlands) or atmospheric inputs (ombrogenic bogs). Our results will help improve our understanding of vegetation–environment relationships in degraded mountain peatland ecosystems in the temperate climate zone. They might also be useful for proper planning of restoration and monitoring of these ecosystems.