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Similar cation exchange capacities among bryophyte species refute a presumed mechanism of peatland acidification
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2010 (English)In: Ecology, ISSN 0012-9658, E-ISSN 1939-9170, Vol. 91, no 9, p. 2716-2726Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Fen-€“bog succession is accompanied by strong increases of carbon accumulation rates. We tested the prevailing hypothesis that living Sphagna have extraordinarily high cation exchange capacity (CEC) and therefore acidify their environment by exchanging tissue-bound protons for basic cations in soil water. As Sphagnum invasion in a peatland usually coincides with succession from a brown moss-dominated alkaline fen to an acidic bog, the CEC of Sphagna is widely believed to play an important role in this acidification process. However, Sphagnum CEC has never been compared explicitly to that of a wide range of other bryophyte taxa. Whether high CEC directly leads to the ability to acidify the environment in situ also remains to be tested. We screened 20 predominant subarctic bryophyte species, including fen brown mosses and bog Sphagna for CEC, in situ soil water acidification capacity (AC), and peat acid neutralizing capacity (ANC). All these bryophyte species possessed substantial CEC, which was remarkably similar for brown mosses and Sphagna. This refutes the commonly accepted idea of living Sphagnum CEC being responsible for peatland acidification, as Sphagnum’s ecological predecessors, brown mosses, can do the same job. Sphagnum AC was several times higher than that of other bryophytes, suggesting that CE (cation exchange) sites of Sphagna in situ are not saturated with basic cations, probably due to the virtual absence of these cations in the bog water. Together, these results suggest that Sphagna can not realize their CEC in bogs, while fen mosses can do so in fens. The fen peat ANC was 65% higher than bog ANC, indicating that acidity released by brown mosses in the CE process was neutralized, maintaining an alkaline environment. We propose two successional pathways indicating boundaries for a fen–bog shift with respect to bryophyte CEC. In neither of them is Sphagnum CE an important factor. We conclude that living Sphagnum CEC does not play any considerable role in the fen–bog shift. Alternatively, we propose that exclusively indirect effects of Sphagnum expansion such as peat accumulation and subsequent blocking of upward alkaline soil water transport are keys to the fen–bog succession and therefore for bog-associated carbon accumulation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 91, no 9, p. 2716-2726
Keywords [en]
acidification, acidity, acid neutralizing capacity, bog, brown moss, bryophyte, carbon cycling, CEC (cation exchange capacity), fen, moss, Sphagnum spp., succession
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Natural Sciences
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URN: urn:nbn:se:polar:diva-8185DOI: 10.1890/09-2095.1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:polar-8185DiVA, id: diva2:1289891
Available from: 2019-02-19 Created: 2019-02-19 Last updated: 2019-02-19

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Publisher's full texthttps://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1890/09-2095.1
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