University of Oulu

Laine, AM, Lindholm, T, Nilsson, M, Kutznetsov, O, Jassey, VEJ, Tuittila, E‐S. Functional diversity and trait composition of vascular plant and Sphagnum moss communities during peatland succession across land uplift regions. J Ecol. 2021; 109: 1774– 1789.

Functional diversity and trait composition of vascular plant and Sphagnum moss communities during peatland succession across land uplift regions

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Author: Laine, Anna M.1,2,3; Lindholm, Tapio4; Nilsson, Mats5;
Organizations: 1Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2School of Forest Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
3Present address: Geological Survey of Finland, P.O. Box 1237, Kuopio, 70211, Finland
4Finnish Environment Institute, Biodiversity Centre, Helsinki, Finland
5Department of Forest Ecology & Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden
6Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biology, Petrozavodsk, Russia
7Laboratoire Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement, Université de Toulouse, CNRS, Toulouse, France
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-04-28


1. Most of the carbon accumulated into peatlands is derived from Sphagnum mosses. During peatland development, the relative share of vascular plants and Sphagnum mosses in the plant community changes, which impacts ecosystem functions. Little is known on the successional development of functional plant traits or functional diversity in peatlands, although this could be a key for understanding the mechanisms behind peatland resistance to climate change. Here we aim to assess how functionality of successive plant communities change along the autogenic peatland development and the associated environmental gradients, namely peat thickness and pH, and to determine whether trait trade‐offs during peatland succession are analogous between vascular plant and moss communities.

2. We collected plant community and trait data on successional peatland gradients from post‐glacial rebound areas in coastal Finland, Sweden and Russia, altogether from 47 peatlands. This allowed us to analyse the changes in community‐weighted mean trait values and functional diversity (diversity of traits) during peatland development.

3. Our results show comparative trait trade‐offs from acquisitive species to conservative species in both vascular plant and Sphagnum moss communities during peatland development. However, mosses had higher resistance to environmental change than vascular plant communities. This was seen in the larger proportion of intraspecific trait variation than species turnover in moss traits, while the proportions were opposite for vascular plants. Similarly, the functional diversity of Sphagnum communities increased during the peatland development, while the opposite occurred for vascular plants. Most of the measured traits showed a phylogenetic signal. More so, the species common to old successional stages, namely Ericacae and Sphagna from subgroup Acutifolia were detected as most similar to their phylogenetic neighbours.

4. Synthesis. During peatland development, vegetation succession leads to the dominance of conservative plant species accustomed to high stress. At the same time, the autogenic succession and ecological engineering of Sphagna leads to higher functional diversity and intraspecific variability, which together indicate higher resistance towards environmental perturbations.

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Series: Journal of ecology
ISSN: 0022-0477
ISSN-E: 1365-2745
ISSN-L: 0022-0477
Volume: 109
Issue: 4
Pages: 1774 - 1789
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13601
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Funding from Kone Foundation and Academy of Finland (project code 287039) made the study possible.
Dataset Reference: Primary data are stored at the Pangaea Data Library (Laine et al., 2021).
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.