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Data from: Biochemical determinants of litter quality in 15 species of Sphagnum

Cite this dataset

Bengtsson, Fia; Rydin, Håkan; Hájek, Tomáš (2018). Data from: Biochemical determinants of litter quality in 15 species of Sphagnum [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background and aims: Sphagnum mosses are ecosystem engineers that create and maintain boreal peatlands. With unique biochemistry, waterlogging and acidifying capacities, they build up meters-thick layers of peat, reducing competition and impeding decomposition. We quantify within-genus differences in biochemical composition to make inferences about decay rates, related to hummock–hollow and fen–bog gradients and to phylogeny.Methods: We sampled litter from 15 Sphagnum species, abundant over the whole northern hemisphere. We used regression and Principal Components Analysis (PCA) to evaluate general relationships between litter quality parameters and decay rates measured under laboratory and field conditions. Results: Both concentrations of the polysaccharide sphagnan and the soluble phenolics were positively correlated with intrinsic decay resistance, however, so were the previously understudied lignin-like phenolics. More resistant litter had more of all the important metabolites; consequently, PC1 scores were related to lab mass loss (R2 = 0.57). There was no such relationship with field mass loss, which is also affected by the environment. PCA also revealed that metabolites clearly group Sphagnum sections (subgenera). Conclusions: We suggest that the commonly stated growth-decomposition trade-off is largely due to litter quality. We show a strong phylogenetic control on Sphagnum metabolites, but their effects on decay are affected by nutrient availability in the habitat.

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SE Sweden