The contribution of mosses to the carbon and water exchange of arctic ecosystems: quantification and relationships with system properties


M. T. van Wijk. Fax: +31-(0)317-484892; e-mail:


Water vapour and CO2 exchange were measured in moss-dominated vegetation using a gas analyser and a 0.3 × 0.3 m chamber at 17 sites near Abisko, Northern Sweden and 21 sites near Longyearbyen, Svalbard, to quantify the contribution of mosses to ecosystem level fluxes. With the help of a simple light-response model, we showed that the moss contribution to ecosystem carbon uptake varied between 14 and 96%, with an average contribution of around 60%. This moss contribution could be related to the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) of the vegetation and the leaf area index (LAI) of the vascular plants. NDVI was a good predictor of gross primary production (GPP) of mosses and of the whole ecosystem, across different moss species, vegetation types and two different latitudes. NDVI was also correlated with thickness of the active green moss layer. Mosses played an important role in water exchange. They are expected to be most important to gas exchange during spring when leaves are not fully developed.