Stable isotope signals provide seasonal climatic markers for moss functional groups.
Living moss biomass and archival peat deposits represent key indicators of present and past climatic conditions, but prediction of future climatic impacts requires appropriate marker species to be characterized under a range of contemporary conditions. Stable isotope signals in high latitude moss deposits offer potential climatic proxies. Seasonal changes in δ13C and δ18O of organic material (cellulose) in representative functional groups, and associated photosynthetic activity (as chlorophyll fluorescence) have been compared across East Anglia, UK, as a function of tissue water content. Representative species from contrasting acid bog, heathland, and fen woodland habitats were selected for monthly sampling of recent growth tissues between spring 2017 and autumn 2018, with isotopic signals in purified cellulose compared with tissue water, precipitation, and nearby groundwater signals. Sphagnum and Polytrichum groups, which tend to dominate peat formation, provided contrasting and complementary indicators of seasonal variations in carbon assimilation. Cellulose δ18O signals from Sphagnum spp. demonstrate seasonal variations in source precipitation inputs; carbon isotope signals in Polytrichum spp. indicate evaporative demand and photosynthetic limitation.
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/M001946/1)