From lake-effect to logs: The diversity of bryophytes around Lake Superior

Bryophytes are an important component of the boreal forest ecosystem, contributing to primary productivity, carbon and nutrient cycles, and stand succession (Greiser et al., 2021; Kumar et al., 2018; Müller et al., 2019). Research has shown that areas of high atmospheric humidity in the form of cloud cover, fog, and frequent precipitation supports rich and diverse bryophyte communities (Mills & Macdonald, 2004; Ratcliffe, 1968). The climate influence of Lake Superior spans up to 80km inland by moderating temperatures and increasing atmospheric moisture by 48% (Scott & Huff, 1996). The shores consist of variable topography, creating pockets of microclimates that increase the heterogeneity of the landscape (Ratcliffe, 1968; Wester et al., 2018). Heterogeneity is further increased within the forest ecosystem through stand age and continuity, and small scale disturbances that create permanent availability of colonizing substrates (Boudreault et al., 2018; Fenton & Bergeron, 2008; Newmaster et al., 2003). The constant availability of a variety of substrates provides colonizing opportunities for bryophytes with different functional traits, and in time, increases the species richness and diversity within a stand (Boudreault et al., 2018; Fenton & Bergeron, 2008; Newmaster et al., 2003). While climactic gradients provide a general distribution of species, including microclimate variation can contribute to a more accurate range of populations (Boudreault et al., 2018; Merinero et al., 2020). Using microclimates to identify critically diverse habitats allows for prioritization of forest management activities to better protect sensitive bryophytes from harmful anthropogenic disturbances (Boudreault et al., 2018; Newmaster et al., 2003; Tukiainen et al., 2017). This research aims to conserve bryophyte species diversity in the boreal forest by identifying species distribution through macro- and microclimate gradients around the north-east shore of Lake Superior.


Deanna Holt-Schmitt

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