Direct and Indirect Drivers of Moss Community Structure, Function, and Associated Microfauna Across a Successional Gradient

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Relative to vascular plants, little is known about what factors control bryophyte communities or how they respond to successional and environmental changes. Bryophytes are abundant in boreal forests, thus changes in moss community composition and functional traits (for example, moisture and nutrient content; rates of photosynthesis and respiration) may have important consequences for ecosystem processes and microfaunal communities. Through synthesis of previous work and new analyses integrating new and published data from a long-term successional gradient in the boreal forest of northern Sweden, we provide a comprehensive view of the biotic factors (for example, vascular plant productivity, species composition, and diversity) and abiotic factors (for example, soil fertility and light transmission) that impact the moss community. Our results show that different aspects of the moss community (that is, composition, functional traits, moss-driven processes, and associated invertebrate fauna) respond to different sets of environmental variables, and that these are not always the same variables as those that influence the vascular plant community. Measures of moss community composition and functional traits were primarily influenced by vascular plant community composition and productivity. This suggests that successional shifts in abiotic variables, such as soil nutrient levels, indirectly affect the moss community via their influence on vascular plant community characteristics, whereas direct abiotic effects are less important. Among the moss-driven processes, moss litter decomposition and moss productivity were mainly influenced by biotic variables (notably the community characteristics of both vascular plants and mosses), whereas moss functional traits (primarily specific leaf area and tissue nutrient concentrations) also were important in explaining moss di-nitrogen-fixation rates. In contrast, both abiotic and biotic variables were important drivers of moss microfaunal community structure. Taken together, our results show which abiotic and biotic factors impact mosses and their associated organisms, and thus highlight that multiple interacting factors need to be considered to understand how moss communities, associated food webs, and the ecosystem processes they influence will respond to environmental change.

Details

Authors
  • Micael Jonsson
  • Paul Kardol
  • Michael J. Gundale
  • Sheel Bansal
  • Marie-Charlotte Nilsson
  • Dan Metcalfe
  • David A. Wardle
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography

Keywords

  • boreal forest, bryophytes, feather mosses, island ecosystems, nematodes, nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-169
JournalEcosystems
Volume18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes