Sphagnum – the builder of boreal peatlands
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.
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