, Volume 204, Issue 1, pp 55-68
Date: 27 Dec 2008

Recolonization potential of bryophyte diaspore banks in harvested boreal mixed-wood forest

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Abstract

Bryophyte diaspore banks are a potential source of reproductive propagules that may be able to colonize newly available habitat after forest harvesting. However, their role and the factors influencing the successful establishment of species remain poorly understood. To investigate these aspects of diaspore banks, we obtained mineral soil samples from mixed and coniferous stands of boreal mixed-wood forest in northern Alberta, Canada, which had recently experienced a range of harvesting intensities. Samples were germinated in growth cabinets under two light regimes. The composition of germinated bryophyte species was compared among forest types, harvesting intensities, and light levels, and also related to edaphic conditions and geographic location of the sample site. Germinated species composition was not related to forest type or harvesting intensity, but was associated with measured edaphic variables and geographic space, indicating that similarity in species composition reflected similarity in edaphic conditions and spatial proximity. This was partly because of spatial dependence of edaphic variables. Light intensity had a significant influence on the development of species assemblages and individual species responses. Richness and cover of acrocarpous mosses (fugitive, colonist, and shuttle life-history strategies) were significantly reduced under low light conditions, but pleurocarpous mosses (perennial strategy) were not affected. Shannon diversity and the frequency of reproduction were significantly greater with high light. Pleurocarpous mosses that are characteristic of intact forests germinated frequently, suggesting that diaspore banks may influence their recovery after disturbance. Diaspore banks are a repository of species at sites affected by forest harvesting; however, diaspore germination and establishment will be constrained by the local environment, including edaphic conditions and light intensity.