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Am J Bot. 2004 Aug;91(8):1164-72. doi: 10.3732/ajb.91.8.1164.

Cushion size, surface roughness, and the control of water balance and carbon flux in the cushion moss Leucobryum glaucum (Leucobryaceae).

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Union College, Schenectady, New York 12308 USA.


We explored the size dependence of water balance and carbon flux in the cushion moss Leucobryum glaucum (Leucobryaceae). Conductance to water vapor (g(a)) was modeled empirically using 4-24 cm diameter cushions (N = 14) evaluated across wind speeds from 0.7 to 4.3 m/s in a wind tunnel. Model parameters included wind speed (u), kinematic viscosity (v), cushion diameter (L(d)), and surface roughness (L(r)). The model g(a) = -9.62(u/v)(1.21) · L(d)(-0.35) · L(r-in)(-1.85) (where L(r-in) represents a dimensionless form of L(r); R(2) = 0.88) indicates negative relationships between g(a) and both L(d) and L(r). These predictions were evaluated during a 5-d field experiment where water loss and net carbon exchange (estimated by ΔF/F(m)') were monitored. In the field (N = 18, 4-34 cm diameter cushions), L(r), but not L(d), controlled rates of evaporation due to additional turbulence that reduced size dependence of cushions along the forest floor. However, the duration of positive net carbon gain varied from 1.4 to 4.4 d and was significantly longer in larger diameter cushions. Thus, under field conditions, size-dependent changes in surface-area-to-volume relationships influence the duration of net carbon gain more than differences in water flux and lead to a strong size dependence of water balance and carbon flux.

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