Add lime (before/after planting)

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Six studies evaluated the effects on peatland vegetation of liming areas planted with peatland plants. Four studies involved fen plants, one involved bog plants and one involved peat swamp plants. Two of the studies were in greenhouses/nurseries.
  • Survival (2 studies): One replicated, controlled study in the Netherlands reported that liming typically reduced survival of planted fen herbs after two growing seasons. One replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in Sweden found that liming increased survival of planted fen mosses over one growing season.
  • Growth (3 studies): Two controlled, before-and-after studies found that liming did not increase growth of planted peatland vegetation. Liming reduced or had no effect on Sphagnum moss growth in bog pools in the UK, and reduced growth rates for the majority of peat swamp tree seedlings in a nursery in Indonesia. One replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in Sweden found that liming increased growth of planted fen mosses.
  • Cover (2 studies): One replicated, randomized, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in a fen in Sweden found that liming increased cover of sown mosses. However, one replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in a bog in Canada found that liming plots sown with fen vegetation fragments had no effect on total vegetation, vascular plant or bryophyte cover.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A controlled, before-and-after study in 1991 in a historically mined raised bog in England, UK (Money 1995) found that liming reduced growth of one planted Sphagnum species and had no effect on another. The growth rate of recurved bog moss Sphagnum recurvum was 12–50% lower in limed pools than in unlimed pools. The effect of liming was especially strong in pools that were also fertilized. The growth rate of feathery bog moss Sphagnum cuspidatum was not significantly lower (only 4–8% less) in limed pools than in unlimed pools. In 1991, individual Sphagnum plants (cut to 5 cm length) were submerged (30 cm deep) in 4 m3 pools dug in the bog (number of plants and pools not reported). After 10 days, four treatments were applied: lime with fertilizer, liming only, fertilization only, or none. Limed pools received 80g calcium carbonate. Fertilized pools received 30 g sodium phosphate. The length of all plants was measured after 20 weeks.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 1994–1995 in a degraded fen meadow in the Netherlands (van Duren et al. 1998) reported that liming typically reduced survival of planted herbs. Three species were planted: carnation sedge Carex panicea, tawny sedge Carex hostiana and meadow thistle Cirsium dissectum. In four of six comparisons, survival after two growing seasons was lower in limed plots (8–20%) than in unlimed plots (15–32%). In one comparison, survival was no different in limed and unlimed plots (72%). In the final comparison, survival was higher in limed plots (88%) than in unlimed plots (80%). After one growing season, lime had little effect on survival (>92% in all plots). In May 1994, twenty 1 m2 plots were each planted with 15 plants (five of each species). Ten plots were limed (450–510 g/m2) and ten were not. All plots had been rewetted and were mown every August. Half had been stripped of topsoil. In August 1994 and 1995, survival of all plants was recorded.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in 2004–2005 in a degraded fen in Sweden (Mälson & Rydin 2007) found that liming increased survival and spread of sown fen mosses. After one growing season, moss survival was significantly higher in plots that had been limed (60–93% of plots contained live moss shoots) than in unlimed plots (4–48%). After two growing seasons, moss cover was significantly higher in limed plots (8–34%) than in unlimed plots (<1–10%). In June 2004, ninety-six 9 cm2 plots were established, in four equal blocks, on rewetted (historically drained) bare peat. Fragments of four fen-characteristic moss species were added (16 fragments of a single species in 9 cm2 subplots) to 24 plots (625 cm2). Twelve of these had been limed before planting (1.2 kg/m2, raising pH from 4.9 to 6.3). Some plots were also covered (with sedge litter or plastic gauze) after planting. Moss survival was assessed after one growing season. Moss cover was visually estimated after two growing seasons.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in a greenhouse in Sweden (Mälson & Rydin 2007) found that liming increased the growth rate of planted fen mosses. After five months, shoots of all four planted moss species were longer in limed trays (42–91 mm) than in unlimed trays (29–61 mm). When planted, fragments were 10 mm long. Four trays of peat (19 x 56 cm) were each planted with 160 moss fragments: ten clusters of four fragments, for each of four species. In two of the trays, lime had been mixed into the peat before planting (128 g/tray). All trays were covered with clear plastic lids, kept in controlled light conditions, watered and systematically rearranged every 10 days. After five months, the length of all planted fragments was measured.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A replicated, randomized, controlled, before-and-after study in 2011 in a nursery in Indonesia (Yuwati et al. 2014) found that liming typically had no effect on growth of planted tree seedlings. Seedlings of 22 peat swamp tree species were studied. Limed and unlimed seedlings showed similar height growth for 15 species, similar growth of stem diameter for 14 species, and similar increase in dry mass for 19 species. The remaining species showed mixed responses: liming increased growth of some but reduced growth of others. In June 2011, 10 random seedlings of each species were limed (36.8 mg dolomitic lime twice/week) and 10 were not. Seedlings were grown in pots of soil and rice husk, from seed or transplanted from the wild. The duration of the experiment was not reported.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled study in 2011–2013 in a historically mined bog in Quebec, Canada (Rochefort et al. 2016) found that liming plots sown with vegetation fragments had no effect on vegetation cover. After two years, there was no significant difference between limed and unlimed plots for total vegetation cover (limed: 25%; unlimed: 21%), vascular plant cover (limed: 21%; unlimed: 18%) or bryophyte cover (limed: 4%; unlimed: 3%). In winter 2009/2010, nine pairs of 20 m2 plots were sown with mixed vegetation fragments from a donor fen. The plots were on a historically mined bog, but the aim of this study was to create a fen because the post-mining peat chemistry was more fen-like than bog-like. In July 2012, dolomitic lime was added to one plot/pair (15 g/m2). The other plots were not limed. In July 2014, vegetation cover was estimated in six quadrats/plot: vascular plants in three 1 x 1 m quadrats and bryophytes in three 50 x 50 cm quadrats.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Taylor, N.G., Grillas, P. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Peatland Conservation. Pages 367-430 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Peatland Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Peatland Conservation
Peatland Conservation

Peatland Conservation - Published 2018

Peatland Conservation

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