The moss food web: Interactions between moss, micro and mesofauna
|Target group:||Biology, Biochemistry|
|Educational level:||Bachelor, Masters|
Mosses are ubiquitous, they are found in aquatic as well as terrestrial biomes across the globe and account for a large fraction of the groundcover in many ecosystems. Further, they contribute to habitat heterogeneity, influence hydrology, temperature and biogeochemistry of soils, and most mosses are colonized by nitrogen (N) fixing bacteria, thereby providing plant-available N to the ecosystem. Mosses also harbour a large variety of microfauna such as rotifers, tardigrades, and nematodes, and mesofauna e.g. mites, springtails and other arthropods. While the presence of these moss inhabiting organisms has been documented, we do not know whether they differ between moss species -are they moss-species specific? how they differ from the soil food web below the moss, and how the different organisms interact with each other within the moss carpet. Also, we do not know how the inhabiting fauna affects the moss-host - do they use the moss as a habitat only, or do they graze on the moss?
In this study, we will fill these knowledge gaps on the moss food web using different moss species collected in forest ecosystems in Denmark and Sweden. The inhabiting fauna will be quantified, identified and linked to moss biogeochemistry (e.g. nutrient content, N fixation measurements). The moss web will be compared to the soil food web collected at the same sites. We will also attempt to make simple feeding experiments.
Specific research questions that can be addressed in this project include:
· Which organisms inhabit mosses?
· Does the faunal community differ between moss species?
· How does the moss-associated faunal community compare to the fauna found in soil?
· Is the moss food or home for the inhabiting organisms?
· Can faunal diversity and identity be explained by moss biogeochemistry?
· Does the presence of N fixing cyanobacteria on moss leaves affect the diversity and identity of the moss fauna?
Flemming Ekelund and Kathrin Rousk
|Methods used:||Faunal identification (visual, DNA sequencing), microscopy, nutrient analyses, nitrogen fixation measurements, field sampling, feeding experiments|
|Keywords:||microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, cyanobacteria, mosses, nematodes, tardigrades, food web, herbivory|
|Supervisor(s):||Flemming Ekelund, Kathrin Rousk|