Barriers to restoration: soil acidity and phosphorus limitation constrain recovery of heathland plant communities after sod cutting

Vogels, J.; Weijters, Maaike; Bobbink, Roland; Bijlsma, R.J.; Lamers, Leon P.M.; Verberk, W.C.E.P.; Siepel, H.


Sod cutting has been used extensively as an effective measure in removing excess N and restoring dwarf shrub dominance in heathlands affected by increased nitrogen deposition. However, recovery of other plant species is often very limited. One barrier is high soil acidity following sod cutting, which results in soil aluminium (Al3+) and ammonium (NH4+) reaching toxic concentrations. Sod‐cutting management also removes most of the major nutrients from the system, so intensified nutrient limitation could be an additional barrier to the recovery of species‐rich communities. Soil phosphorus (P) is of special interest as research indicates sod‐cutting management can shift the system to P limitation.