Microclimatological consequences for plant and microbial composition in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands

In three Scandinavian peatlands we studied to what extent plant and microbial community compositions are governed by local-scale microhabitat, with a special interest in the effect of aspect (i.e. exposition of slopes). Despite differences in solar irradiance between the south- and north-facing slopes, maximum temperature was elevated in the south-facing slopes at the most northern site only. Pore-water nutrient concentrations were not affected by aspect, yet dissolved organic carbon concentrations were higher in the south-facing microhabitats. This was likely caused by higher vascular plant biomass. Plant and microbial community composition clearly differed among sites. In all three sites, microhabitat (i.e. prevailing water-table depth) affected the plant and microbial community compositions. Aspect, however, did not affect community composition, even though microclimate significantly differed between the south- and the north-facing aspects at the northernmost site. Our results highlight the complex link between plant community composition, microbial community and environmental conditions, which deserves much more attention than currently in order to fully understand the effects of climate change on peatland ecosystem function.

Published in:
Boreal Environment Research, 19, 3, 195-208
Helsinki, Finnish Environment Inst

 Record created 2014-08-29, last modified 2018-03-17

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