Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

Grasslands cover more than 40% of Montana[1] and while much is known about the vascular plant community, little attention is paid to the role mosses play. Could these bryophytes be a key part in maintaining proper nutrient cycling and recruiting new plants? In our preliminary study we found that plant biomass is increased in the presence of moss, one explanation involves moss physiology. Mosses are fascinating organisms able to withstand extreme dehydration and can rehydrate within minutes. This rapid rehydration results in nutrient loss through ruptured cell walls, which we hypothesize is then leached into the soil and made available to surrounding organisms. In our current project we are investigating the nature of moss ‘leachate’ and what effect it has on native plants and nonnative plants in competition. Moss has been shown to facilitate plant growth through altering physical structure or water availability; we are focused on how mosses alter the nutrient cycling. Our common garden experiment will treat established grassland plants (C. stoebe, and F. idahoensis) with moss leachate for 4 weeks and measure final biomass. Furthermore, via elemental analysis, we will investigate the nature of moss leachate, quantifying the total organic carbon and nitrogen. Mosses grow in almost every ecosystem on the planet, and linking moss leachate as a key part of the nutrient cycle could yield many management implications.

1. Montana’s Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy, Executive Summary, 2005. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Category

Life Sciences

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Apr 11th, 3:00 PM Apr 11th, 4:00 PM

Leaky Moss in Montana's Grasslands

Grasslands cover more than 40% of Montana[1] and while much is known about the vascular plant community, little attention is paid to the role mosses play. Could these bryophytes be a key part in maintaining proper nutrient cycling and recruiting new plants? In our preliminary study we found that plant biomass is increased in the presence of moss, one explanation involves moss physiology. Mosses are fascinating organisms able to withstand extreme dehydration and can rehydrate within minutes. This rapid rehydration results in nutrient loss through ruptured cell walls, which we hypothesize is then leached into the soil and made available to surrounding organisms. In our current project we are investigating the nature of moss ‘leachate’ and what effect it has on native plants and nonnative plants in competition. Moss has been shown to facilitate plant growth through altering physical structure or water availability; we are focused on how mosses alter the nutrient cycling. Our common garden experiment will treat established grassland plants (C. stoebe, and F. idahoensis) with moss leachate for 4 weeks and measure final biomass. Furthermore, via elemental analysis, we will investigate the nature of moss leachate, quantifying the total organic carbon and nitrogen. Mosses grow in almost every ecosystem on the planet, and linking moss leachate as a key part of the nutrient cycle could yield many management implications.

1. Montana’s Comprehensive Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy, Executive Summary, 2005. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks