, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 393–401 | Cite as

Evidence for Acidification-Driven Ecosystem Collapse of Danish Erica tetralix Wet Heathland

  • Morten Strandberg
  • Christian Damgaard
  • Hans Jørgen Degn
  • Jesper Bak
  • Knud Erik Nielsen


We report observations of disappearance of Erica tetralix in wet heathland, which is unlikely to be caused by competition, as E. tetralix is dying before its place is taken up by other species. To investigate the causes, we used both old and new data. Results showed that presence of Molinia caerulea and Calluna vulgaris were substantial in the former E. tetralix dominated areas. Measurements of the C/N ratio in the morlayer were between 21 and 26 under the E. tetralix stands. As the expected C/N ratio in a healthy nutrient poor ecosystem like the E. tetralix wet heathland is around 30, this indicates that the ratio is probably decreasing and, correspondingly, the probability of nitrogen leaching from the ecosystem is increasing. The morlayer pH was extremely low—between 3.03 and 3.78. This represents a pH decline since the 1960s, where pH values generally were above 4. This supports the hypothesis that the decrease in morlayer pH is the major factor explaining the disappearance of E. tetralix and that measures to increase pH should be considered as part of the recommendations for relevant future management.


Critical load Nitrogen deposition Management Cross-leaved heath Base cations 



Thanks to Jesper Heile Christensen for providing the nitrogen deposition data, to Ole Pedersen for pointing out suitable places for transect analyses on Borris Hede, to the Danish Armed Forces/Ole Noe for financial support, and to Charlotte Kler for checking English writing.

Supplementary material

13280_2012_251_MOESM1_ESM.doc (124 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 124 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morten Strandberg
    • 1
  • Christian Damgaard
    • 1
  • Hans Jørgen Degn
    • 2
  • Jesper Bak
    • 1
  • Knud Erik Nielsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversitySilkeborgDenmark
  2. 2.Degn Nature ConsultRingkøbingDenmark

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