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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

The impact of simulated chronic nitrogen deposition on the biomass and N-2-fixation activity of two boreal feather moss-cyanobacteria associations

Gundale, Michael; Holm Bach, Lisbet; H. Bach, Lisbeth; Nordin, Annika


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 (N-r). They associate with cyanobacteria that fix atmospheric N-2, 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 N-2-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, N-2-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 N-2-fixation rate per unit area, respectively. These results help to quantify the sensitivity of feather moss biomass and N-2 fixation to chronic Nr deposition, which is relevant for modelling ecosystem C and N balances in boreal ecosystems.


atmospheric nitrogen deposition; bryophytes; cyanobacteria; diazotroph; feather moss; nitrogen fixation

Published in

Biology Letters
2013, volume: 9, number: 6
Publisher: ROYAL SOC

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Holm Bach, Lisbet
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
H. Bach, Lisbeth (H. Bach, Lisbeth)
Umeå University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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