Explaining High Plant Diversity in Nutrient-Limited Rich Fen Wetlands: The Role of Mosses in Fen Nutrient Dynamics

EPA Grant Number: FP916372
Title: Explaining High Plant Diversity in Nutrient-Limited Rich Fen Wetlands: The Role of Mosses in Fen Nutrient Dynamics
Investigators: Crowley, Katherine F.
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $111,344
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Terrestrial Ecology and Ecosystems , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Phosphorus (P)-limited, mineral-rich fen wetlands support high plant diversity and many rare species, making them critical conservation targets; however, the mechanisms by which this diverse community succeeds under P limitation are poorly understood. The moss layer is known to mediate nutrient availability in some wetland systems, but its role in fen P dynamics is unclear. The objectives of this research are to investigate mechanisms by which the moss layer in rich fens may obtain and cycle P and to assess potential implications for the growth and composition of the vascular plant community. I hypothesize that a dominant moss layer in rich fens will alleviate P limitation within the moss microenvironment by enabling P access from less available pools. If bryophytes can increase available P within their immediate environment, this additional P source could increase the competitive ability of small, shallow-rooted vascular plants with dominant, deep-rooted species, therefore helping to maintain the high plant diversity of fen systems.


To investigate these linkages, I will use tracer studies, a fertilization experiment, and a moss removal experiment to assess the effects of the fen moss layer on its physical and chemical environment and on the associated vascular plant community. By clarifying the role of the moss layer in fen P dynamics, this work will contribute to the mechanistic understanding of fen diversity essential to effective conservation of these vulnerable wetlands.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, phosphorous, rich fen wetlands, plant diversity, conservation, moss, nutrient availability,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Water & Watershed, Environmental Chemistry, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, wetlands, nutrient transport, fen wetlands, nutrient flux, conservation, wetland plant species, tracer studies

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 176KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final