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Grassland vegetation change over time in response to fertiliser treatments

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Janet Simkin


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Vegetation responses to fertiliser and liming treatments can be slow, with variation from year to year due to climatic, management and other factors. Short term studies may detect changes in species composition that are not consistent with longer term trends. The Palace Leas experiment has been running since 1896, with 14 plots subject to treatment with different combinations of farmyard manure and inorganic fertilisers. This provides an opportunity to assess the responses of species and of the grassland plant community as a whole over 118 years of treatment. The botanical composition of the Palace Leas plots was recorded using the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) methodology in June 2014, and compared with data recorded on 11 occasions between 1897 and 2008. Recording methods have varied and some of the earlier datasets are incomplete by modern standards, but the data shows trends of change in the botanical composition of some plots compared to the untreated control plot which has continued to be U4b grassland throughout. The plots receiving either farmyard manure or the most intensive inorganic fertiliser treatments now support a tall sward of coarse grasses that corresponds to MG7d or the Alopecurus pratensis variant of MG6a. The other plots receiving various combinations of inorganic fertiliser treatments can all be interpreted as forms of U4b but there are significant differences between them in the abundance of particular plant species. The changes over time are complex and have sometimes been reversed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Simkin JM

Editor(s): Peacock S; Smith BM; Stockdale E; Watson C

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Valuing long-term sites and experiments for agriculture and ecology

Year of Conference: 2015

Print publication date: 28/05/2015

Acceptance date: 01/06/2015

ISSN: 0265-1491

Publisher: Association of Applied Biologists