Peck, J.E. & L.E. Frelich. 2008. Commercial moss harvest does not disrupt successional development of understory epiphytic bryophytes in the Pacific Northwest. Ecological Applications 18(1):146-158.


    We evaluated the impact of commercial moss harvest on the development of an understory epiphyte community in the Pacific Northwest by characterizing natural development stages using data from both a long term regrowth study and demographic sampling.  First, experimentally stripped 1-m long cylindrats on 46 shrub stems in the Oregon Coast Range were monitored for species composition and abundance annually during the first five years of recovery and again in year 10.  Second, a pathway of community development was inferred by examining the relative species composition and abundance of epiphytic species present in moss mats in a four-stage chronosequence.  We (1) characterized the change in richness and composition from year 1 through 10 of regrowth following experimental disturbance, (2) quantified the proportion of ca. 1, 10, 25, and 50 year old moss mats of commercially harvestable species that were monodominant, diverse, and late successional, and (3) contrasted these proportions with estimates from a compositional transition matrix derived from long-term monitoring.  Roughly half of the observed moss mats demonstrated neutral dynamics and were composed of a mixture of readily dispersed acrocarps and pleurocarps.  The remaining half exhibited positive dynamics and were dominated by aggressively growing pleurocarpous species such as Isothecium myosuroides.  Following structural developmental pathways well established for vascular plants, moss mats shift with time from high diversity and evenness in the initial colonization and extended establishment phases to increasing Isothecium-dominance during a presumed competitive-exclusion phase.  Old mats exist in alternate states of either Isothecium-dominance or mixed composition, either of which may have late successional species.  Patchy historic commercial moss harvest likely facilitated high diversity by increasing the simultaneous occurrence of all moss mat age classes, while modern strip harvesting methods are predicted to promote predominantly even-aged mats that are unlikely to reach “old-growth” conditions before reharvest.


PNW Moss Lit