As increased nutrient availability due to drainage is considered a major cause of eutrophication in wetlands rewetting of drained wetlands is recommended as a restoration measure. The effect of soil drying and rewetting on the contribution of various nutrient release or transformation processes to changed nutrient availability for plants is however weakly understood. We measured effects of soil drying and re-wetting on N mineralization, and denitrification, as well as on release of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), phosphorus, and potassium in incubated soil cores from a wet meadow in southern Sweden. Additionally, the impact of re-wetting with sulphate-enriched water was studied. Soil drying stimulated N mineralization (3 times higher) and reduced denitrification (5 times lower) compared to continuously wet soil. In the wet cores, denitrification increased to 20 mg N m(-2) d(-1), which was much higher than denitrification measured in the field. In the field, increased inorganic-N availability for plants due to drainage seemed primarily to be caused by increased N mineralization, and less by decreased denitrification. Soil drying also stimulated the release of DON and K, but P release was not affected. Re-wetting of dried soil cores strongly stimulated denitrification (up to 160 mg N m(-2) d(-1)), but N mineralization was not significantly decreased, neither were DON or K release. In contrast, the extractable P pool increased upon soil wetting. Re-wetting with sulphate-enriched water had no effect on any of the nutrient release or transformation rates. We conclude that caution is required in re-wetting of drained wetlands, because it may unintendently cause internal eutrophication through an increased P availability for plants.
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