Effects of bryophytes on soil microbial processes and nitrogen cycling.

In high latitude ecosystems bryophytes (mainly mosses) are important drivers of ecosystem functions. Alterations in abundance of bryophytes due to global change may thus strongly influence C and N cycling and hence feedback on climate. Little is known, however, about the effects of mosses on microbial decomposition processes and nutrient transformations in soils. This project thus aims at elucidating how and by what mechanisms bryophytes influence soil microbial processes and community composition compared to vascular plants and how these interactions affect nutrient availability for higher plants.

We investigate this by a field study and a transplant experiment in a tundra heath in northern Sweden. Furthermore, we perform a manipulation experiment in a subarctic birch forest, where we simulate effects of bryophytes on soil temperature and moisture and also study the effect of atmospheric N sequestration by moss layers. We determine the influence of bryophytes on various microbial processes, such as extracellular enzyme activities, N mineralization and nitrification rates, as well as effects on C and N pools and microbial community composition.

The results of this project will contribute to a better insight into plant – soil interactions apart from vascular plants and will thus help to predict changes in ecosystem processes resulting from future shifts in plant community composition in tundra and boreal forest ecosystems.

Funded by an Erwin-Schrödinger postdoc fellowship from Austrian Science Fund (FWF)

Project nr. J4015-B29
Project duration: 2017-2020


Host institution:
  • Dept. of Biology, Univ. of Copenhagen (Group Anders Michelsen)
Investigated by:



Tundra heath - study site

Manipulation experiment in birch forest

Transplant experiment