, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 310–315

The role of mosses in the phosphorus cycling of an Alaskan black spruce forest


  • F. S. ChapinIII
    • Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska
  • W. C. Oechel
    • Systems Ecology Research GroupSan Diego State University
  • K. Van Cleve
    • Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska
  • W. Lawrence
    • Systems Ecology Research GroupSan Diego State University
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00379375

Cite this article as:
Chapin, F.S., Oechel, W.C., Van Cleve, K. et al. Oecologia (1987) 74: 310. doi:10.1007/BF00379375


Mosses account for 75% of the annual phosphorus accumulation in aboveground parts of an Alaskan black spruce forest, although they comprise only 17% of the phosphorus pool in aboveground vegetation. Sphagnum subsecundum and feathermosses (Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi) have a higher capacity to absorb phosphate than do the fine roots of black spruce (Picea mariana) that are situated beneath the moss layer. In three of the four moss species studied, phosphate absorption capacity increases with increasing age of green tissue and decreases with increasing age of brown tissue. In the two feathermosses, which acquire moisture primarily from the air, and in Sphagnum, phosphate absorption is more rapid in green than in brown tissue. In contrast, the endohydric moss Polytrichum commune, which transports water through stem tissue from soil, absorbs phosphate most rapidly from stems in mineral soil. Two treatments designed to reduce activity of mycorrhizae (cutting of roots extending beneath the moss carpet or application to the moss surface of a fungicide that kills mycorrhizal hyphae) tended to increase phosphate retention by mosses and reduce phosphate transfer out of the experimental plots. This suggests that mycorrhizae are an important avenue of phosphorus movement out of the moss carpet and a means by which the black spruce competes with the overlying mosses for nutrients.

Key words

MossesMycorrhizaePhosphorus cyclingPicea mariana

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987