Response of photosynthesis of Sphagnum species from contrasting microhabitats to tissue water content and repeated desiccation

New Phytol. 1998 Dec;140(4):677-684. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-8137.1998.00311.x.


The response of photosynthetic CO2 exchange to tissue water content in five spp. of Sphagnum from contrasting microhabitats (S. fuscum (Schimp.) Klinggr., S. papillosum H. Lindb., S. magellanicum Brid., S. balticum (Russ.) C. Jens. and S. cuspidatum Ehrh. ex Hoffm.) was measured in the laboratory using an infrared gas analyser technique. Experiments were designed to test recovery of net photosynthesis after periodic and long lasting desiccation. The contact between capitula and basal parts of the mosses seems to be important for survival. Isolated capitula cut off from any contact with the water table were not able to recover after complete desiccation (at 15°C for 2-4 d). When contact with the water table is lost, e.g. during long periods of desiccation, recovery of net photosynthesis can take place but only if the water content of the capitula does not fall too far below c. 10-20% of the water content at compensation point. There was no relationship between the ability of net photosynthesis to recover from desiccation and the wetness of the natural microhabitat. Sphagna survive dry periods by avoidance of drying out by high capillarity or dense growth form (as in S. fuscum).

Keywords: CO2 exchange; Sphagnum; desiccation; photosynthesis; recovery.