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Oecologia. 2007 Apr;151(4):584-92. Epub 2006 Dec 12.

Estimation of stand-level leaf area for boreal bryophytes.

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Department of Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Bryophytes dominate the carbon and nitrogen cycling of many poorly drained terrestrial ecosystems and are important in the vegetation-atmosphere exchange of carbon and water, yet few studies have estimated their leaf area at the stand scale. This study quantified the bryophyte-specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf area index (LAI) in a group of different-aged boreal forest stands in well and poorly drained soils. Species-specific SLA (for three feather mosses, four Sphagnum spp. and Aulacomnium palustre mixed with Tomentypnum nitens) was assessed by determining the projected area using a flatbed scanner and cross-sectional geometry using a dissecting microscope. The hemisurface leaf area was computed as the product of SLA and live biomass and was scaled by coverage data collected at all stands. Pleurozium schreberi dominated the spatial coverage, biomass and leaf area in the well-drained stands, particularly the oldest, while S. fuscum and A. palustre were important in the poorly drained stands. Live moss biomass ranged from 47 to 230 g m(-2) in the well-drained stands dominated by feather mosses and from 102 to 228 g m(-2) in the poorly drained stands. Bryophyte SLA varied between 135 and 473 cm(2) g(-1), for A. palustre and S. capillifolium, respectively. SLA was strongly and significantly affected by bryophyte species, but did not vary between stands; in general, there was no significant difference between the SLA of non-Sphagnum mosses. Bryophyte LAI increased with stand age, peaking at 3.1 and 3.7 in the well and poorly drained stands, respectively; this represented approximately 40% of the overstory LAI in the well-drained stands and 100-1,000% in the poorly drained stands, underscoring the important role bryophytes play in the water and carbon budgets of these boreal forests.

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