What is the use of moss in karst zones? Researchers give answers

Returning farmland to forest and grassland is an important measure for rocky desertification control and ecological restoration in the karst region of southwest China. With the continuous progress of vegetation restoration, a moss layer about 1 cm thick has formed on the surface of the soil in rocky desertification areas. The effects of these mosses on the overlying microbial community and soil physicochemical properties and their associated soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation are unclear.

Moss of the karst zone. Photo by Xiao Lumei

Based on this, the scientific research team of the Institute of Subtropical Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, took the long-term observation of three typical artificial vegetation restoration methods (single plantation forest, single pastureland and planted forest intercropping pasture) in the karst peak cluster area of southwest China as the research object, and analyzed the effects of natural moss, transplanted moss and removed moss on soil carbon and nitrogen indexes, soil microbial communities and soil physicochemical properties by moss transplantation and culling.

Moss samples. Photo by Xiao Lumei

The results showed that after one year of experimental treatment, the content of available nitrogen (ammonium nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen) in the topsoil was increased by transplanted moss, and the organic carbon content and total nitrogen content of the topsoil were reduced by removing the moss. Natural moss, transplanted moss and removal of moss all reduced soil microbial biomass to varying degrees and affected soil microbial community composition (fungal-to-bacterial ratio, gram-positive bacteria to gram-negative bacterial ratio); Moss properties (biomass, carbon-nitrogen content, carbon-nitrogen ratio, saturated water retention), moss-regulated soil water content, soil microbial biomass and community composition were important factors affecting soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation.

Xiao Lumei photographing moss. Photo courtesy of interviewee

The study was completed under the guidance of Wang Kelin and Zhang Wei, researchers of the Huanjiang Karst Ecosystem Observation and Research Station of the Institute of Subtropical Ecology, and doctoral student Xiao Lumei (now a special research assistant at the Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences) as the first author, and the research paper was recently published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

The research has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the Guangxi Natural Science Foundation. (Source: Wang Haohao, China Science News)

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