Understanding long-term effects of topsoil removal in peatlands: overcoming thresholds for fen meadows restoration

  • Published source details Klimkowska A., van der Elst D.J.D. & Grootjans A.P. (2015) Understanding long-term effects of topsoil removal in peatlands: overcoming thresholds for fen meadows restoration. Applied Vegetation Science, 18, 110-120.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Remove upper layer of peat/soil (without planting)

Action Link
Peatland Conservation
  1. Remove upper layer of peat/soil (without planting)

    A controlled study in 1995–2008 in a degraded fen meadow in the Netherlands (Klimkowska et al. 2015) reported that plots stripped of topsoil (and rewetted) developed different plant communities to unstripped (and drier) plots, with more plant species and greater moss/liverwort cover. Most of these results were not tested for statistical significance. Over 13 years, restored plots developed a different plant community (with fen meadow-characteristic species) to unrestored plots (dominated by species characteristic of drier, nutrient-rich sites; data reported as a graphical analysis). After 13 years, there were 24 species/4 m2 in restored plots (vs 21 species/4 m2 in unrestored plots). Restored plots also had significantly greater moss/liverwort cover (78–83%) than unrestored plots (23%). Results were similar in areas with shallow and deep topsoil removal. In 1995, an area of drained fen meadow was restored by stripping topsoil (shallow: 20cm; deep: 40 cm) and rewetting (by blocking local drainage ditches). The study does not distinguish between the effects of these interventions. An adjacent area was not stripped of topsoil or locally rewetted. Two interventions affected the whole site: additional rewetting by blocking a large drainage ditch in 2000, and reinstated annual mowing from 2001. Between 1997 and 2008, cover of every plant species was estimated in permanent 4 m2 plots: 16 in the restored area and two in the unrestored area.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

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