Action: Introduce nurse plants (without planting peatland vegetation)
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no studies that evaluated the effects of introducing nurse plants on naturally colonizing, focal peatland vegetation.
‘We found no studies’ means that we have not yet found any studies that have directly evaluated this action during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore we have been unable to assess whether or not the action is effective or has any harmful impacts. Please get in touch if you know of such a study for this action.
Nurse or companion plants can be planted to help naturally recolonizing peatland vegetation (Padilla & Pugnaire 2006). Nurse plants can bind together loose peat and reduce harsh environmental conditions (temperature fluctuations, desiccation and strong sunlight). Clearly, nurse plants that can tolerate these conditions must be selected. Invasive species (that spread easily) and species that may outcompete focal plants (physically or chemically) should be avoided. Instead, it is expected that nurse plants are eventually outcompeted by focal plants.
Herbs are common nurse plants in temperate peatlands, creating shelter for mosses. They may be directly planted or added as seed (the latter being a more efficient way to cover larger areas). Haircap moss Polytrichum strictum may act as a nurse plant for Sphagnum mosses: a correlative study in Canada found that natural recolonization of Sphagnum only occurred in carpets of haircap moss (Groeneveld et al. 2007). In tropical peat swamps, light-tolerant trees can be used to shelter shade-loving trees.
Key peatland types where this action may be appropriate: bogs, fens/fen meadows, tropical peat swamps.
Related actions: restore or create a peatland using multiple interventions, which commonly includes introducing nurse plants; introduce nurse plants before planting focal peatland plants.
Groeneveld E.V.G., Masse A. & Rochefort L. (2007) Polytrichum strictum as a nurse-plant in peatland restoration. Restoration Ecology, 15, 709–719.
Padilla F.M. & Pugnaire F.I. (2006) The role of nurse plants in the restoration of degraded environments. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4, 196–202.