The impact of simulated chronic nitrogen deposition on the biomass and N₂-fixation activity of two boreal feather moss-cyanobacteria associations
Biol Lett. 2013; 9(6):20130797
Gundale MJ, Bach LH, Nordin A

Bryophytes achieve substantial biomass and play several key functional roles in boreal forests that can influence how carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling respond to atmospheric deposition of reactive nitrogen (Nr). They associate with cyanobacteria that fix atmospheric N₂, and downregulation of this process may offset anthropogenic Nr inputs to boreal systems. Bryophytes also promote soil C accumulation by thermally insulating soils, and changes in their biomass influence soil C dynamics. Using a unique large-scale (0.1 ha forested plots), long-term experiment (16 years) in northern Sweden where we simulated anthropogenic Nr deposition, we measured the biomass and N₂-fixation response of two bryophyte species, the feather mosses Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi. Our data show that the biomass declined for both species; however, N₂-fixation rates per unit mass and per unit area declined only for H. splendens. The low and high treatments resulted in a 29% and 54% reduction in total feather moss biomass, and a 58% and 97% reduction in total N₂-fixation rate per unit area, respectively. These results help to quantify the sensitivity of feather moss biomass and N₂ fixation to chronic Nr deposition, which is relevant for modelling ecosystem C and N balances in boreal ecosystems.

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