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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Catchment characteristics control boreal mire nutrient regime and vegetation patterns over ~5000 years of landscape development

Ehnvall, Betty; Ågren, Anneli; Nilsson, Mats; Ratcliffe, Joshua; Noumonvi, Koffi Dodji; Peichl, Matthias; Lidberg, William ; Giesler, Reiner; Mörth, Carl-Magnus; Öquist, Mats


Vegetation holds the key to many properties that make natural mires unique, such as surface microtopography, high biodiversity values, effective carbon sequestration and regulation of water and nutrient fluxes across the landscape. Despite this, landscape controls behind mire vegetation patterns have previously been poorly described at large spatial scales, which limits the understanding of basic drivers underpinning mire ecosystem services. We studied catchment controls on mire nutrient regimes and vegetation patterns using a geographically constrained natural mire chronosequence along the isostatically rising coastline in Northern Sweden. By comparing mires of different ages, we can partition vegetation patterns caused by long-term mire succession (<5000 years) and present-day vegetation responses to catchment eco-hydrological settings. We used the remote sensing based normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) to describe mire vegetation and combined peat physicochemical measures with catchment properties to identify the most important factors that determine mire NDVI. We found strong evidence that mire NDVI depends on nutrient inputs from the catchment area or underlying mineral soil, especially concerning phosphorus and potassium concentrations. Steep mire and catchment slopes, dry conditions and large catchment areas relative to mire areas were associated with higher NDVI. We also found long-term successional patterns, with lower NDVI in older mires. Importantly, the NDVI should be used to describe mire vegetation patterns in open mires if the focus is on surface vegetation, since the canopy cover in tree-covered mires completely dominated the NDVI signal. With our study approach, we can quantitatively describe the connection between landscape properties and mire nutrient regime. Our results confirm that mire vegetation responds to the upslope catchment area, but importantly, also suggest that mire and catchment aging can override the role of catchment influence. This effect was clear across mires of all ages, but was strongest in younger mires.


Catchment support; Chronosequence; NDVI; Landscape ecology; Holocene

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2023, Volume: 895, article number: 165132