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The Biology of Peatlands$
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Hakan Rydin and John K Jeglum

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198528722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198528722.001.0001

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Sphagnum – the builder of boreal peatlands

Sphagnum – the builder of boreal peatlands

(p.58) 4 Sphagnum – the builder of boreal peatlands
The Biology of Peatlands

Håkan Rydin

John K. Jeglum

Oxford University Press

Boreal peatlands would have neither their extent nor their particular features if it were not for the peculiar characteristics of the peat mosses — the genus Sphagnum. Peat mosses are very special bryophytes, particularly adapted to acidic, cool, waterlogged, and extremely nutrient-poor conditions, and they create these hostile environments themselves. In short, Sphagnum mosses are successful in boreal mires because: (1) they make their surroundings acidic, wet, and anoxic; (2) they tolerate and require only low concentrations of solutes; (3) they are resistant to decay; and (4) there are a number of species that specialize in different types of peatlands. Among their peculiar adaptations focus is on their water-holding capacity, and their production of organic compounds that modify the environment for other organisms and retard the activity of decomposers. Different Sphagnum species are excellent environmental indicators.

Keywords:   boreal peatlands, peat mosses, bryophytes, nutrient-poor conditions, sphagnum

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