Shifts in N and P Budgets of Heathland Ecosystems: Effects of Management and Atmospheric Inputs

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


In the present study we analyzed the combined effects of management (grazing, mowing, prescribed burning, sod-cutting) and atmospheric deposition on N and P budgets of heathland ecosystems (Lüneburger Heide nature reserve; N Germany). We hypothesize that management measures such as grazing and mowing can accelerate a deposition-induced imbalance of N and P pools as a result of a disproportionally high output of P. We analyzed management and deposition affected inputoutput flows of N and P and related them to changes in the nutritional status of Calluna vulgaris 5 years after treatment application. We found that grazing and mowing caused the highest net loss of P due to high P concentrations in the aboveground biomass. In contrast, prescribed burning only slightly affected P pools, as P remained in the system due to ash deposition. Management-mediated effects on N and P pools were mirrored in the nutritional status of Calluna vulgaris: at the grazed and mown sites, the P content of current season’s shoots significantly decreased within 5 years after treatments, whereas the N content remained unchanged. We conclude that grazing and mowing can accelerate declining availability of P and, thus, accelerate a deposition-induced shift from N- to P-limited plant growth in the medium term. In the face of ongoing atmospheric N loads management schemes need to combine high- and low-intensity measures to maintain both a diverse structure and balanced nutrient budgets in the long term.
Seiten (von - bis)298-310
Anzahl der Seiten13
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 02.2009


  • Biologie - Calluna vulgaris, grazing, leaching, Molinia caerulea, mowing, N:P ratio, nutrient limitation, prescribed burning, sod-cutting
  • Ökosystemforschung