Recovery of plant communities after ecological restoration of forestry-drained peatlands
Self archived versionpublished version
MetadataShow full item record
CitationHaapalehto Tuomas. Juutinen Riikka. Kareksela Santtu. Kuitunen Markku. Tahvanainen Teemu. Vuori Hilja. Kotiaho Janne S. (2017). Recovery of plant communities after ecological restoration of forestry-drained peatlands. Ecology and Evolution, [First published 29 Aug 2017], 10.1002/ece3.3243.
Ecological restoration is expected to reverse the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Due to the low number of well-replicated field studies, the extent to which restoration recovers plant communities, and the factors underlying possible shortcomings, are not well understood even in medium term. We compared the plant community composition of 38 sites comprising pristine, forestry-drained, and 5 or 10 years ago restored peatlands in southern Finland, with special interest in understanding spatial variation within studied sites, as well as the development of the numbers and the abundances of target species. Our results indicated a recovery of community composition 5–10 years after restoration, but there was significant heterogeneity in recovery. Plant communities farthest away from ditches were very similar to their pristine reference already 10 years after restoration. In contrast, communities in the ditches were as far from the target as the drained communities. The recovery appears to be characterized by a decline in the number and abundance of species typical to degraded conditions, and increase in the abundance of characteristic peatland species. However, we found no increase above the drained state in the number of characteristic peatland species. Our results suggest that there is a risk of drawing premature conclusions on the efficiency of ecological restoration with the current practice of short-term monitoring. Our results also illustrate fine-scale within-site spatial variability in the degradation and recovery of the plant communities that should be considered when evaluating the success of restoration. Overall, we find the heterogeneous outcome of restoration observed here promising. However, low recovery in the number of characteristic species demonstrates the importance of prioritizing restoration sites, and addressing the uncertainty of recovery when setting restoration targets. It appears that it is easier to eradicate unwanted species than regain characteristic species by restoration.