Impacts of peat bulk density, ash deposition and rainwater chemistry on establishment of peatland mosses.
Background and aims: Peatland moss communities play an important role in ecosystem function. Drivers such as fire and atmospheric pollution have the capacity to influence mosses via multiple pathways. Here, we investigate physical and chemical processes which may influence establishment and growth of three key moss species in peatlands. Methods: A controlled factorial experiment investigated the effects of different peat bulk density, ash deposition and rainwater chemistry treatments on the growth of Sphagnum capillifolium, S. fallax and Campylopus introflexus. Results: Higher peat bulk density limited growth of both Sphagnum species. S. capillifolium and C. introflexus responded positively to ash deposition. Less polluted rain limited growth of C. introflexus. Biomass was well correlated with percentage cover in all three species. Conclusions: Peat bulk density increases caused by fire or drainage can limit Sphagnum establishment and growth, potentially threatening peatland function. Ash inputs may have direct benefits for some Sphagnum species, but are also likely to increase competition from other bryophytes and vascular plants which may offset positive effects. Rainwater pollution may similarly increase competition to Sphagnum, and could enhance positive effects of ash addition on C. introflexus growth. Finally, cover can provide a useful approximation of biomass where destructive sampling is undesirable.