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Effects of water level and temperature on performance of four Sphagnum mosses


To evaluate the effects of changes in water level and temperatures on performance of four Sphagnum mosses, S. magellanicum, S. rubellum, S. imbricatum and S. fuscum were grown at two water levels,  −5 cm and  −15 cm, and at two temperatures, 15°C and 20°C. These species differ in their position along the microtopographical gradient and in their geographical distribution. Height increment, subcapitulum bulk density, biomass production, capitulum water content and cumulative evaporation were measured. Height increment and biomass production of S. magellanicum was lower at low water table than at high water table, whereas height increment and biomass production of S. rubellum, S. imbricatum and S. fuscum were unaffected. Height increment of S. magellanicum, S. rubellum and S. imbricatum was higher at high temperature than at low temperature. Biomass production of only S. magellanicum and S. rubellum was higher at high temperature than at low temperature, corresponding with their more southern distribution. Cumulative evaporation of S. magellanicum and S. rubellum was lower at low water table and could be explained by hampered water transport towards the capitula. We conclude that changes in water table and temperature may alter the Sphagnum composition on raised bogs, which may result in changes to important ecosystem processes. Therefore, it is important that species composition and changes therein are taken into account when evaluating global change effects on raised bog ecosystems.

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We thank R.H.A. van Grunsven, M.M.P.D Heijmans, F. Kohler, J. Noordijk, J. Verhulst and two anonymous reviewers for their critical comments on earlier versions of the manuscript, which led to significant improvements. We are indebted to An Taisce and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Ireland for permission to enter their nature reserves and to collect the peat samples. We also acknowledge the practical help of P.H. Crushell (University College Cork), J.M. Gleichman, F. Möller and J.D. van Walsem. This research was supported by the National Forest Service of The Netherlands (Staatsbosbeheer) and a grant from the Dutch Foundation for Conservation of Irish bogs.

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Correspondence to Bjorn J.M. Robroek.

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Robroek, B.J., Limpens, J., Breeuwer, A. et al. Effects of water level and temperature on performance of four Sphagnum mosses. Plant Ecol 190, 97–107 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-006-9193-5

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  • Biomass production
  • Climate change
  • Raised bogs
  • Peatlands
  • Sphagnum
  • Water table