Mosses in High-Arctic lakes: in situ measurements of annual primary production and decomposition

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Aquatic mosses are important primary producers in High-Arctic lakes, but little information is available on their contribution to the overall production in these lakes. In order to predict effects of climate change on whole-lake ecosystem characteristics, more knowledge is needed on the role of moss in primary production, the extent of nutrient limitation of moss primary production and whether moss serves as food resource for secondary producers. In this study, we conducted an in situ growth experiment of an aquatic moss in a High-Arctic lake in NE Greenland and used these data to determine annual net production of this moss in the whole lake. We also measured tissue-N and tissue-P in order to assess nutrient limitation of moss production, measured in situ decomposition rates by litter bag experiments over 1 year and assessed the role of moss as food source by analysing stable isotope 15N and 13C of relevant organism groups in the lake. Net primary production of moss was 1.3 gC m−2 year−1 and constituted 23 % of the total benthic primary production and 18 % of the total lake primary production. Stoichiometric assessments suggested N and P limitation of moss growth. On average, 15 % of the standing biomass was decomposed per year. Our results also indicate that moss is not directly used as food resource by herbivores, but the most abundant herbivore, Lepidurusarcticus, is feeding on the epiphytic biofilm on the moss. Moss biomass is instead incorporated into the microbial decomposer pathway. All together, the study shows that moss plays an important ecological role as primary producer in High-Arctic lakes and functions as substrate for periphytic biofilm that serves as food resource for important herbivore invertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolar Biology
Pages (from-to)543-552
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

    Research areas

  • Annual growth, Aquatic moss, Global warming, Growth rate, High Arctic, In situ growth experiment, Lake primary production

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