Description

1. Peat-forming wetlands, and particularly floating fens forming the initial stages of these ecosystems, are globally declining due to excavation, dehydration and eutrophication. Restoration of these valuable ecosystems typically involves re-establishment of early-successional open-water stages with oligotrophic conditions that are characteristic for these systems. However, restoration success is notoriously limited and a potential solution may be to initiate succession by re-introduction of target plant species. Knowledge is needed on (a) which plant functional groups should be re-introduced to stimulate fen formation; and (b) how to manage nutrient levels during restoration, considering that plant growth may be slow in oligotrophic conditions. 2. We hypothesized that (1) increasing functional diversity of introduced species would stimulate the formation of peat-forming target communities, their biomass accumulation and expansion onto open water; and that (2) nutrient availability would mediate the relative contribution of specific functional groups to these effects. We experimentally investigated this in 36 artificial outdoor ponds by manipulating plant functional diversity (clonal dominants, clonal stress-tolerators and interstitials) on constructed rafts with fen-forming communities and subjected these to a range of nutrient loadings over two years. 3. Increasing functional diversity as well as increasing nutrient loadings had stimulating effects on plant biomass accumulation, cover formation and rhizome growth onto open water. Both complementarity (due to niche partitioning or facilitation) and selection effects were mechanisms underlying the diversity effect, with a constant relative importance over the entire range of nutrient availabilities. Different functional groups were important for biomass production at different nutrient availabilities. Rhizome formation by clonal stress-tolerators contributed disproportionately to open water colonisation, identifying this functional group as key across all nutrient levels. 4. Synthesis and applications Restoration of floating fen communities (1) can be stimulated during the first two years by introducing a high functional diversity of plant species, including fast-growing clonal species, clonal stress-tolerators and interstitials, which facilitate each other, (2) is dependent on the presence of clonal stress-tolerators such as Calla palustris, Comarum palustre and Menyanthes trifoliata for expansion onto the open water, (3) can start under a wide range of water nutrient levels, including eutrophic conditions.11-Jul-2018
Date made available03 Aug 2018
PublisherDryad

ID: 10487702