The role of mosses in carbon uptake and partitioning in arctic vegetation

Lorna Street, Jens-Arne Subke, Martin Sommerkorn, Victoria Sloan, Helene Ducrotoy, Gareth K Phoenix, Mathew Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Arctic is already experiencing changes in plant community composition, so understanding the contribution of different vegetation components to carbon (C) cycling is essential in order to accurately quantify ecosystem C balance. Mosses contribute substantially to biomass, but their impact on carbon use efficiency (CUE) - the proportion of gross primary productivity (GPP) incorporated into growth - and aboveground versus belowground C partitioning is poorly known. We used (13) C pulse-labelling to trace assimilated C in mosses (Sphagnum sect. Acutifolia and Pleurozium schreberi) and in dwarf shrub-P. schreberi vegetation in sub-Arctic Finland. Based on (13) C pools and fluxes, we quantified the contribution of mosses to GPP, CUE and partitioning. Mosses incorporated 20 ± 9% of total ecosystem GPP into biomass. CUE of Sphagnum was 68-71%, that of P. schreberi was 62-81% and that of dwarf shrub-P. schreberi vegetation was 58-74%. Incorporation of C belowground was 10 ± 2% of GPP, while vascular plants alone incorporated 15 ± 4% of their fixed C belowground. We have demonstrated that mosses strongly influence C uptake and retention in Arctic dwarf shrub vegetation. They increase CUE, and the fraction of GPP partitioned aboveground. Arctic C models must include mosses to accurately represent ecosystem C dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-175
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2013


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