Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Mosses on Palace Leas

Had an interesting day surveying the mosses growing on the Palace Leas long-term hay meadow fertilizer experiment Having seen the very striking differences in the vascular plant flora on the different plots before, I thought it would be interesting to investigate the bryophytes. There are very few published papers on bryophyte ecology even of the common species.

Another reason to investigate this was to see if there was any relationship between hay production and moss cover. In the dales, one of the reasons that farmers give for chain harrowing in spring is to get rid of the mosses. They have a perception that high moss cover prevents the crop from growing well. I suspect myself that moss cover might have no impact on the growth of the vascular plants. By chain harrowing of course they are very efficiently spreading moss propagules evenly around the field! Chain harrowing in spring is very damaging for the ground-nesting birds, so it would be useful to find another reason to discourage people from doing it.

Anyway, what I found was interesting enough to encourage me to go back in March/April to do a proper survey with precise %cover measurements on 10 quadrats per plot.On this visit I just walked over each plot for about 15 mins and recorded the bryophyte species. At the end of each plot I gave each species a DAFOR score and gave a rough extimate of %cover of all bryophytes on the plot. Here's what I found
You can compare these results with the data on the Palace Leas website on the link above and see what you think!

On plot 1 I found only one shoot of both Eurhynchium praelongum and Brachythecium rutabulum - I thought at this stage I had come a long way for nothing! It got more interesting after that. Eurhynchium praelongum was on every plot, but at different levels of cover on different ones. Brachythecium rutabulum was noticeably more frequent on plots 8 & 12 which are also the most species-rich plots for vascular plants. Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus also had a very striking pattern being frequent to abundant on plots 6, 7 & 9 and more or less absent from all of the others. Trying to work out what's behind these patterns will be interesting. These are very common species, but it is amazing how little we know about their ecology.



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