The interactive effects of temperature and moisture on nitrogen fixation in two temperate-arctic mosses

  • Kathrin RouskEmail author
  • Pia Agerlund Pedersen
  • Kristine Dyrnum
  • Anders Michelsen


Nitrogen (N) fixation in moss-cyanobacteria associations is one of the main sources of ‘new’ N in pristine ecosystems like subarctic and arctic tundra. This fundamental ecosystem process is driven by temperature as well as by moisture. Yet, the effects of temperature and moisture stress on N2 fixation in mosses under controlled conditions have rarely been investigated separately, rendering the interactive effects of the two climatic factors on N2 fixation unknown. Here, we tested the interactive effects of temperature and moisture on N2 fixation in the two most dominant moss species in a temperate heath, subarctic tundra and arctic tundra: Pleurozium schreberi and Tomentypnum nitens. Mosses with different moisture levels (25, 50, 100%) were kept at different temperatures (10, 20, 30 °C) and N2 fixation was measured at different times after exposure to these conditions. T. nitens had the highest nitrogenase activity and this increased with moisture content, while effects were moderate for P. schreberi. Nitrogenase activity increased with temperature in all mosses, and the temperature optimum (Topt) was between 20 °C and 30 °C for all mosses. Quick acclimatization towards higher temperatures occurred. Our results suggest that the contemporary and not the historical climate govern the response of moss-associated N2 fixation to changes in the abiotic environment. Thus, climate change will have substantial impacts on N2 fixation in dominant mosses in temperate, subarctic and arctic habitats.


Acetylene reduction Arctic Climate change Cyanobacteria Drought Heathland 



Funding was provided by the Danish Council for Independent Research and FP7 Marie Curie Actions “COFUND” (Grant ID: DFF—1325-00025), as well as from the Danish Council for Independent Research “Research Project 1” (Grant ID: DFF—6108-00089), and the Danish National Research Foundation (Center for Permafrost, CENPERM DNRF100). We thank Gosha Sylvester and Maja Holm Wahlgren for assistance with laboratory analyses at the University of Copenhagen, and Abisko Scientific Research Station for logistics and access to climate data.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 323 kb)


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Copyright information

© Brazilian Society of Plant Physiology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Terrestrial Ecology SectionUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Center for Permafrost (CENPERM)University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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