Effects of nitrogen deposition on growth and survival of montane Racomitrium lanuginosum heath

I S K Pearce, R van der Wal

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Abstract

Montane heaths dominated by the moss Racomitrium lanuginosum are in decline, for which increased atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition may be partially responsible. To test this, field plots in northeast Scotland were treated with either low or high (10 or 40 kg N ha(-1)year(-1)) doses of nitrogen (as NO3- or NH4+) for 2 years. Although Racomitrium tissue N increased after treatment, with greater response for low than high N application, activity of the enzyme nitrate reductase and Racomitrium growth were severely inhibited by increasing N addition. Racomitrium cover declined following N addition and graminoid cover increased, also with greatest effect at high doses. Of all measurements, only nitrate reductase showed a distinction between NO3- and NH4+ application. The results demonstrate the detrimental effects of even low increases in nitrogen deposition on the moss heath, suggesting that loss of Racomitrium and its replacement by graminoids is strongly linked to increased levels of anthropogenic N pollution. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume104
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Keywords

  • atmospheric nitrogen deposition
  • Racomitrium lanuginosum
  • Carex bigelowii
  • bryophyte growth
  • nitrate reductase
  • SIMULATED ENVIRONMENTAL-CHANGE
  • ATMOSPHERIC NITROGEN
  • PLANT-COMMUNITIES
  • CALLUNA-VULGARIS
  • AMMONIUM-N
  • RESPONSES
  • VEGETATION
  • BRITAIN
  • NITRATE
  • TEMPERATURE

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