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Veer, M.A.C.: Nitrogen availability in relation to vegetation changes resulting from grass encroachment in Dutch dry dunes. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 3: 41-48, 1997.


Abstract. The encroachment of some tall grass species in open dune vegetation, as observed in a Dutch dry dune area, is considered unfavourable from a conservation viewpoint. This paper investigates differences in vegetation and soil properties between grass-dominated and still existing open dune grassland plots at four locations along the coast. Soil properties studied include nitrogen and phosphorus pools and nitrogen availability by mineralization.Vegetation properties included are above and below-ground biomass and nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in above-ground biomass. Systematic differences in N-pools between grass-dominated and open dune grassland plots were not observed. However, N-availability by mineralization and its turnover rates are higher in grass-dominated plots than in open dune grassland plots, as well as above and below-ground biomass. In open dune grassland plots, atmospheric N-input is an important source of N, whereas in grass-dominated plots mineralization largely exceeds atmospheric N-input. However, these observations do not explain the mosaic-like vegetation pattern. Grazing intensity is most likely the determinant factor in the dry dune system. It is concluded, that grass encroachment is probably triggered by atmospheric deposition and is enhanced by positive feedbacks in the N-cycle. The relevance of these results for restoration management is briefly discussed.

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