• Learning Arctic Biology •
Ecosystem role of bryophytes
Bryophytes have many important ecosystem functions in the Arctic. These include:
Regulation of hydrology
In many habitats, bryophytes control soil and vegetation hydrology (Beringer et al. 2001). This is mainly due to their large capacity to absorb and retain water. Especially Sphagnum is known for its capacity to retain water in both intra- and extracellular spaces, even defying gravity by capillary upward movement of water. Peatlands, for example, are able to maintain their own water table level this way, independent of outer topographical settings.
Regulation of soil temprature
Bryophytes act as an insulating layer above the soil (Gornall et al. 2007, Soudzilovskaia et al. 2013). In arctic habitats, bryophytes are thereby protecting permafrost. Changes from moss- to vascular plant-dominated flora can therefore have far-reaching consequences (more coming soon here).