You are here: Home / Research Topics / Research Highlights / Individual Highlight

Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

New Method Monitors Species Groups and Estimates Carbon Storage in Moss and Lichen Layers in Boreal and Temperate Forests

Photo of The tundra of interior Alaska hosts an incredible diversity of moss and lichen species that sequester carbon and regulate the water table, among other ecosystem services. USDA Forest Service.The tundra of interior Alaska hosts an incredible diversity of moss and lichen species that sequester carbon and regulate the water table, among other ecosystem services. USDA Forest Service.Snapshot : Mat forming ground layers of mosses and lichens are responsible for sequestering one-third of the world’s terrestrial carbon, regulating water tables, cooling soils, and inhibiting microbial decomposition. Without reliable assessment tools, the potential effects of climate and land-use changes on these important functions remain unclear. To fill this need, scientists implemented a novel ‘‘Ground Layer Indicator’’ method as part of the Forest Inventory and Analysis program.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Jovan, Sarah, Dr 
Research Location : Alaska
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 762

Summary

Mat forming mosses and lichens have important functional roles in the ecosystem. Forest Service scientists developed a nondestructive, repeatable, and efficient method for gauging these functions and evaluating responses to ecosystem changes. They used this method to estimate biomass, carbon and nitrogen content for nine moss and lichen functional groups among eight contrasted habitat types in the Pacific Northwest and boreal Alaska.

Ground layer cover, volume, standing biomass, carbon content, and functional group richness were greater in boreal forest and tundra habitats of Alaska compared to moss and lichen ground layers in Oregon forests and steppes. Biomass in upland black spruce forests was nearly double other reports, likely because this method included viable, nonphotosynthetic tissues. Functional group richness was greatest in lowland black spruce forests. High biomass and functional distinctiveness in Alaska ground layers highlight the need for increased attention to currently under-sampled boreal and Arctic regions, which are projected to be among the most active responders to climate change.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring
  • Oregon State University