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Interacting effects of sulphate pollution, sulphide toxicity and eutrophication on vegetation development in fens: A mesocosm experiment

Geurts, Jeroen J.M., Sarneel, Judith M., Willers, Bart J.C., Roelofs, Jan G.M., Verhoeven, Jos T.A., Lamers, Leon P.M.
Environmental pollution 2009 v.157 no.7 pp. 2072-2081
fens, sulfates, water pollution, sulfides, toxicity, eutrophication, biodiversity, pollution load, macrophytes, plant growth, biogeochemistry, nitrogen fertilizers, phosphorus fertilizers, fertilizer application
Both eutrophication and SO₄ pollution can lead to higher availability of nutrients and potentially toxic compounds in wetlands. To unravel the interaction between the level of eutrophication and toxicity at species and community level, effects of SO₄ were tested in nutrient-poor and nutrient-rich fen mesocosms. Biomass production of aquatic and semi-aquatic macrophytes and colonization of the water layer increased after fertilization, leading to dominance of highly competitive species. SO₄ addition increased alkalinity and sulphide concentrations, leading to decomposition and additional eutrophication. SO₄ pollution and concomitant sulphide production considerably reduced biomass production and colonization, but macrophytes were less vulnerable in fertilized conditions. The experiment shows that competition between species, vegetation succession and terrestrialization are not only influenced by nutrient availability, but also by toxicity, which strongly interacts with the level of eutrophication. This implies that previously neutralized toxicity effects in eutrophied fens may appear after nutrient reduction measures have been taken. Interspecific competition, vegetation succession and terrestrialization in fens depend on the interacting effects of SO₄ pollution, sulphide toxicity and nutrient availability.