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Sival, F.P., Grootjans, A.P., Stuyfzand, P.J., Verschoore de la Houssaye, T.: Variation in groundwater composition and decalcification depth in a dune slack: effects on basiphilous vegetation. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 3: 79-86, 1997.


Abstract. Basiphilous, open, species-rich vegetation types of young dune slacks have declined throughout Europe in recent years, and have largely been replaced by often acidophilous,  tall marsh and scrub vegetation. This succession appears to be accelerated by a decrease in the discharge of calcareous groundwater from sandy ridges or small dune hummocks. The present study deals with spatial and temporal variation in the chemical composition of the groundwater in the upper metres of the soil of a degraded dune slack complex on the Dutch barrier island of Schiermonnikoog, with emphasis on (1) groundwater composition, (2) water level and (3) decalcification patterns. The main aim was to assess perspectives for restoring basiphilous vegetation types which had been abundant in this slack from 1954 to 1977. The depth of decalcification was related to former hydrological conditions along a transect of 200 m. Acidifying effects of rainfall were reflected in the chemical composition of the groundwater below small dune hummocks within the slack. Distinct precipitation water lenses, poor in dissolved ions, were formed under the dune hummocks during a wet period. This microtopography did not contribute to the discharge of calcareous groundwater to lowlying parts of the slack. Here, groundwater showed decreasing concentrations of the dissolved ions after a rain shower. Except for the peripheral sections of the slack – where upward seepage of groundwater (exfiltration) still occurs – infiltration conditions are now dominant in the slack. The consequences of the present hydrological conditions for restoration are briefly discussed.

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