, Volume 304, Issue 1-2, pp 199-208,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 29 Jan 2008

Amino acid uptake among wide-ranging moss species may contribute to their strong position in higher-latitude ecosystems


Plants that can take up amino acids directly from the soil solution may have a competitive advantage in ecosystems where inorganic nitrogen sources are scarce. We hypothesized that diverse mosses in cold, N-stressed ecosystems share this ability. We experimentally tested 11 sub-arctic Swedish moss species of wide-ranging taxa and growth form for their ability to take up double labelled (15N and 13C) glycine and aspartic acid in a laboratory setup as well as in a realistic field setting. All species were able to take up amino acids injected into the soil solution to some extent, although field uptake was marginal to absent for the endohydric Polytrichum commune. The 11 moss species on average took up 36 ± 5% of the injected glycine and 18 ± 2% of the aspartic acid in the lab experiment. Field uptake of both glycine (24 ± 5%) and aspartic acid (10 ± 2%) was lower than in the lab. Overall differences in uptake amongst species appeared to be positively associated with habitat wetness and/or turf density among different Sphagnum species and among non-Sphagnum species, respectively. Species from habitats of lower inorganic N availability, as indicated tentatively by lower tissue N concentrations, showed relatively strong amino acid uptake, but this was only significant for the field uptake among non-Sphagnum mosses. Further experiments are needed to test for consistent differences in amino acid uptake capacity among species and functional groups as determined by their functional traits, and to test how the affinity of cold-biome mosses for amino acids compares to that for ammonium or nitrate. Still, our results support the view that widespread moss species in cold, N-stressed ecosystems may derive a significant proportion of their nitrogen demand from free amino acids. This might give them a competitive advantage over plants that depend strongly on inorganic N sources.

Responsible Editor: Herbert Johannes Kronzucker.