Siberian Federal University: SibFU scientists reveal a high adaptability of Siberian mosses and lichens

Daria Polosukhina, young scientist of the School of Ecology and Geography, Siberian Federal University and the Sukachev Institute of Forest, SB RAS spoke about the research that she has been conducting since 2018. Together with a research team, she managed to prove a high degree of adaptability of mosses and lichens of the Siberian taiga to photosynthesize in changing conditions.

The study aims to amplify and clarify the data of forest’s carbon balance under climate change.

“Most of my research involve expeditions to the north of Krasnoyarsk Territory (ZOTTO High Mast Station). Here, in natural conditions, carbon flux measurements are carried out by using the Walz gfs-3000 infrared gas sensor. This equipment allows you to record not only the flux values, but also the environmental conditions (ambient temperature and humidity, CO2 concentration, photosynthetically active radiation of PAR, etc.). Field experiments are also carried out to determine the ability of mosses and lichens to function in changing conditions and adapt to climate change.
Our research is unique in the full sense of the word, since the contribution of individual species of mosses and lichens to the overall balance of forests has been highly insufficiently studied. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the assessment of the resources of the considered layer of vegetation of boreal biogeocenosis and its “vulnerability” to an increase in temperatures, which is largely determined by the composition of the ground cover, remains one of the main aims in current research on carbon cycle.
The studies were carried out over several survey seasons. A detailed analysis of the seasonal dynamics of photosynthesis by the dominants of the moss – lichen cover was carried out and the dependences of the rates of photosynthesis for each of the studied species on the main abiotic environmental factors were obtained.
Six absolute dominants of the living ground cover (Pleurozium schreberi, Hylocomium splendens, Aulacomnium palustre, Cladonia stellaris, Cladonia rangiferina, Cetraria islandica) were considered. Thus, the total stock of biomass of the living ground cover is commensurate with the stock of photosynthetic biomass of the forest stand (pine needles). The moss-lichen layer of vegetation accounts for 78–96% of the total biomass of the subordinate layer of vegetation.
It was found that, in contrast to lichens, the seasonal dynamics of the values of photosynthesis in mosses is poorly shown. Pleurozium schreberi (61%) and Cladonia stellaris (53%) play the dominant role in the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the moss – lichen cover for green moss and lichen forest types, respectively. As a result of field experiments, we were able to confirm that the peculiarities of photosynthesis of moss – lichen synusia (similar species) of taiga biomes allow them to perfectly adapt to the ongoing climate changes: an increase in temperature and CO2 concentration. Moreover, this ability is higher than that of other plants of the Siberian taiga”.

In the future, the scientist expects to obtain a quantitative assessment of the absorption capacity of mosses and lichens, as well as their contribution to the total carbon balance of forest ecosystems.