Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Rich fens are calcareous and nutrient poor wetlands with a rich flora of orchids, sedges and mosses. As many as one hundred plant species are rich fen specialists. Many wetlands have been drained historically, and transformed to agricultural land or production forests. Today rich fens cover only 2-3% of the total mire area in Sweden. Rich fen is a rare and valuable habitat also from a European perspective and is protected in the Natura 2000-network. To increase and maintain the biodiversity and ecosystem services rich fens can offer, it is important to increase the rich fen area by restoration and management. Rich fen restoration can be carried out in different ways. In this report the restoration method of top soil removal is investigated. The method has never been tested before in Sweden and therefore it is important to evaluate the suitability of the method for further conservation work.
Before restoration, the study area had been drained, used as arable land and pasture, and finally become abandoned and overgrown by tall eutrophic herbaceous vegetation. An excavator dug away the layer of nutrient rich top soil and then the site was left for spontaneous development. Adjacent to the restored area, there is a small remnant of rich fen. Monitoring of the restored area was performed during the first five years after the restoration. I repeated the monitoring after ten years, and analyzed the long-term succession of plants and snails, in comparison with the status in the reference fen.
The vegetation in the restored parts is approaching the one in the reference fen. For example, the number of rich fen specialists has increased steadily. However, the colonization of bryophytes is slow. They cover at most 20 % in the restored parts, while 80 % in the reference fen, possibly because of dispersal limitation and the fact that the restored area is drier than the reference fen. More species of herbs can be found in the restored parts than in the reference fen. Another difference is the high cover of bare soil in the restored areas, compared to none in the reference fen. Some trees and bushes are growing in the area, primarily birch (Betula pubescens) and different species of Salix. The land snails have successfully colonized the restored areas. After two years the same number of species was found in the restored area, as in the reference fen. The total number of species found in the restored areas was 26, compared to 29 in the reference fen, among them three rare rich fen indicator species.
The results show how the restored site has developed from bare mineral soil to a rich fen site, approaching the species composition of the reference fen. Several species of rich fen specialists among vascular plants, bryophytes and land snails have established in the restored areas. The small rich fen close to the restored area functions as a source from where plants and animals can spread. Overall the restoration shows very positive results, going from bare soil to rich fen vegetation in only ten years.