Physiological Ecology of Peatland Bryophytes

  • Tomáš Hájek
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 37)


Bryophytes, notably mosses of the genus Sphagnum, are significant and essential primary producers in peatlands. Peatland bryophytes face specific physical conditions; they are exposed to direct sunlight, but due to their permanent hydration they do not escape by drying as typical xeric bryophytes of open habitats. Being desiccation avoiders they are actually sensitive to drought. During photosynthesis, hydration increases the diffusion resistance to CO2, which can be supplied also from respiration in the underlying peat. The distance to the water table affects the degree of hydration, but also influences nutrient availability as mineral nutrients can be carried in capillary water. Consequently, gradients of nutrient and water availability are related in peatlands and their variation in addition to light maintains bryophyte species diversity in peatlands. Habitats with low stress intensity, typically forested peatlands and wet microhabitats of open bogs and fens, host mosses with competitive life strategies, characterized by high rates of photosynthesis, growth and production. In contrast, mosses inhabiting sun-exposed, nutrient poor microhabitats, typically hummocks, must cope with low water availability and photodamage. Their stress-tolerance/avoidance strategy is reflected by slow photosynthetic and growth rates, and allocation to water holding tissues.

In this chapter, I review the effects of ecologically relevant (stress) factors affecting photosynthesis and growth, especially in Sphagnum. Potential consequences of global climate change are also discussed. I mention how the non-uniform experimental conditions used in photosynthetic gas exchange measurements may affect the diffusion resistance to CO2 and consequent estimates of photosynthesis and evaporation. Suggestions for further research are proposed.


Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density Capillary Water Sphagnum Moss Optimum Water Content Sphagnum Species 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



– photosynthetic CO2 assimilation (rate);


– evaporation rate;


– maximum quantum yield of PSII photochemistry;


– non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence;


quantum yield of PSII photochemistry;


photosynthetic photon flux density;


photosystem II;


relative electron transport rate;

RH –

relative air humidity;


– water content



I am grateful to the editors for helpful comments and language correction. This work was supported by long-term research development project no. RVO 67985939 (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic) and grant GAP505/10/0638 (The Czech Science Foundation).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BotanyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicTřeboňCzech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic

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