Desiccation and rehydration of mosses greatly increases resource fluxes that alter soil carbon and nitrogen cycling

Mandy L. Slate, Benjamin W. Sullivan, Ragan M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Mosses often have positive effects on soil carbon and nitrogen cycling, but we know little about how environmentally determined cycles of desiccation and rehydration in mosses influence these processes. In this context, we compared carbon and nitrogen in throughfall after precipitation passed through eight moss species that were either hydrated continuously or desiccated and rehydrated. Also, the throughfall of four moss species was added to soil and used to determine the net effect of carbon and nitrogen added in moss throughfall on soil CO2 and N2O efflux. Depending on the species, desiccated-rehydrated (rehydrated) mosses lost 2–31 times more carbon in throughfall than mosses that were continuously hydrated (hydrated). Hydrated mosses lost little to no detectable nitrogen, whereas most rehydrated mosses lost some nitrogen in throughfall. Throughfall from both hydrated and rehydrated mosses generated higher CO2 and N2O efflux than water treated soils, but rehydrated moss throughfall promoted larger N2O efflux than hydrated moss throughfall. Throughfall from hydrated mosses caused net negative changes in soil carbon and had very little effect on soil nitrogen, whereas throughfall from rehydrated mosses generated positive changes in soil carbon and nitrogen. Synthesis. Our results indicate that resources lost from desiccated mosses during rehydration influence soil carbon and nitrogen transformations and may be important drivers of carbon and nitrogen cycling and storage in ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1767-1778
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • bryophyte
  • carbon storage and loss
  • ecosystem function
  • moss
  • nitrogen storage and loss
  • throughfall


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