Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
Université Laval
Sphagnum Ecology 1993

Eastern Canada Sphagnum ecology

Building on work conducted in western Canada by Dennis Gignac and Dale H. Vitt at the University of Alberta, our project aims to quantify the relative importance of the factors controlling the abundance of Sphagnum in eastern Canada.

Numerous measurements of environmental variables such as pH, conductivity, nutrients, ground water, topographical and meteorological data allow us to generate "surface-response" curves for each Sphagnum species. These curves define the ecological amplitude of the different Sphagnum species.

Sphagnum mosses: a key species in peatland restoration

Since the beginning of our researches in peatland restoration, a special focus has been put on Sphagnum reintroduction and establishment. In many ways, Sphagnum are the engineers of their ecosystem. For example, they modify their physico-chemical environment which in turn, slows-down decomposition processes. Sphagnum mosses play a major role in the formation and sustainability of peatlands.

Sphagnum dynamics during establishment

The majority of physiological studies on Sphagnum spp. have focused on the growth dynamics of established communities. However, the initial stages of establishment of these bryophytes are highly important as they dictate subsequent community structure and the spatial separation of niches. When Sphagnum spp. are reintroduced onto mined sites, the physiological growth response of vegetative diaspores may vary during the establishment period. This variation may be linked to whether the species were reintroduced as mono-specific or pluri-specific mixes.

A study aims to determine whether the regeneration capacity of four Sphagnum species (Sphagnum fuscum, S. rubellum, S. angustifolium et S. magellanicum) is affected by the species composition at the reintroduction. These species are representatives of the different peatland microhabitats in the Lac-Saint-Jean region (see the Experimental sites map).

These four species were thus reintroduced in mono-specific or pluri-specific mixes on a mined peatland. Sphagnum establishment was then monitored during four growing seasons. The experiment was repeated four times independently, that is each spring from 1995 to 1998, in order to isolate the influence of climatic conditions during establishment.

The results of this study will improve our understanding of the physiological growth response of some Sphagnum species during the regeneration phase, as well as the interactions between species. It will also provide us with valuable information for the amelioration of peatland restoration techniques and development of Sphagnum farming.

Project's publication(s) & communication(s)


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