Canadian Forest Service Publications

Modelling moss-derived carbon in upland black spruce forests. 2016. Bona, K.A.; Shaw, C.H.; Fyles, J.W.; Kurz, W.A. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 46(4):520-534.

Year: 2016

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 37422

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2015-0512

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Mosses play a key role in the carbon (C) cycle of upland black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) BSP) forests; however, national reporting models such as the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3) do not include mosses. This study examined whether widely available plot-level merchantable tree volume could predict, for black spruce ecosystems in Canada's boreal forest, the relative proportions of sphagnum and feather moss ground cover and moss net primary productivity (NPP). A field study found that merchantable tree volume was significantly related to tree canopy openness (R2 = 0.61, P < 0.001), which could then be used to model the relative ground cover of feather moss (R2 = 0.5, P < 0.001) and sphagnum (R2 = 0.45, P < 0.001) and NPP of feather moss (R2 = 0.41, P < 0.001) and sphagnum (R2 = 0.28, P < 0.001). The resulting MOSS-C submodel increased the accuracy of the CBM-CFS3's prediction of organic-horizon C five-fold and could explain large-scale variation in sites dominated by sphagnum with large organic layer C pools but not fine-scale variation in dryer sites. To improve MOSS-C accuracy, future studies should focus on varying decomposition and fire regime parameters based on regional climate or plot-level vegetation parameters.

Plain Language Summary

Black spruce forests are the most widespread forest type in Canada. They store large amounts of carbon in the soil and much of it comes from mosses. However, mosses are rarely included in computer simulation models used for reporting on the amount of carbon stored in and released into the atmosphere (as greenhouse gases) from Canada’s forested area. We measured trees, the amount of light that passed through the tree tops to the mosses on the ground, the different kinds of mosses, and how fast the mosses grew in different types of black spruce forests. We used the data to develop a mathematical model (MOSS-C) to calculate the amount of carbon that builds up in moss-derived peat layers. The model greatly improved our ability to tell how much of the carbon in black spruce forests comes from mosses. MOSS-C will be attached to the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS) that is used to calculate the amount of carbon in Canada’s managed forest area, and it will also be used to calculate the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from Canada’s managed forest area. Studying the relationships between trees and mosses in black spruce forests helped us to better understand these forests and their potential contribution to Canada’s forest carbon budget.