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Concept: Sphagnopsida


Terrestrial mosses are commonly used as bioindicators of atmospheric pollution. However, there is a lack of standardization of the biomonitoring preparation technique and the efficiency of metal adsorption by various moss species is poorly known. This is especially true for in vitro-cultivated moss clones, which are promising candidates for a standardized moss-bag technique. We studied the adsorption of copper and zinc on naturally grown Sphagnum peat moss in comparison with in vitro-cultivated Sphagnum palustre samples in order to provide their physico-chemical characterization and to test the possibility of using cloned peat mosses as bioindicators within the protocol of moss-bag technique. We demonstrate that in vitro-grown clones of S. palustre exhibit acid-base properties similar to those of naturally grown Sphagnum samples, whereas the zinc adsorption capacity of the clones is approx. twice higher than that of the samples from the field. At the same time, the field samples adsorbed 30-50% higher amount of Cu(2+) compared to that of the clones. This contrast may be related to fine differences in the bulk chemical composition, specific surface area, morphological features, type and abundance of binding sites at the cell surfaces and in the aqueous solution of natural and cloned Sphagnum. The clones exhibited much lower concentration of most metal pollutants in their tissues relative to the natural samples thus making the former better indicators of low metal loading. Overall, in vitro-produced clones of S. palustre can be considered as an adequate, environmentally benign substitution for protected natural Sphagnum sp. samples to be used in moss-bags for atmospheric monitoring.

Concepts: BET theory, Soil, Activated carbon, Mosses, Chemistry, Sphagnopsida, Sphagnum, Moss


Sphagnum mosses and peat could have been utilized as wound dressings for centuries, however reliable data on this subject are ambiguous; sometimes even no distinction between peat moss (Sphagnum spp.) and peat is made or these terms become confused. The first scientific account on surgical use of peat comes from 1882: a peat digger who successfully, by himself and in the way unknown to the then medicine, cured an open fracture of his forearm with peat. The peat, and very soon the peat moss itself (which is the major constituent of peat) drew attention of the 19(th)-century surgeons.

Concepts: Mosses, Sphagnum affine, Bog, Soil, Sphagnopsida, Sphagnum, Moss


Mosses are well known as biomonitors of fresh water for metal pollutants, but no studies were reported so far about their ability to intercept plastic particles, although this kind of pollution has become an urgent issue worldwide. In the present work, the interaction between the moss Sphagnum palustre L. cultured in vitro and polystyrene nanoparticles (NPs) was studied for the first time in a laboratory experiment, in the view of using moss transplants for detecting microplastics in fresh water environments. The ability of S. palustre to intercept and retain polystyrene, and the effects of vitality and post-exposure washing on NP retention by moss were tested. Fluorescence microscope observations showed that polystyrene NPs were retained by moss leaves in form of small (the most abundant fraction) and large aggregates. Particle count analysis highlighted that the number of particles increased while increasing the exposure time. Moreover, moss devitalization favored NP accumulation, likely because of cell membrane damages occurred in dead moss material. Post-exposure washing induced a loss of larger aggregates, suggesting that exposure time is a key point to be carefully evaluated in field conditions. These results encourage the use of S. palustre transplants for monitoring microplastics contamination of fresh water environments.

Concepts: Environment, Sphagnopsida, Shutter speed, Plant, Moss, Fresh Water, Freshwater, Sphagnum


Sphagnum moss was collected from twenty-one ombrotrophic (rain-fed) peat bogs surrounding open pit mines and upgrading facilities of Athabasca Bituminous Sands in Alberta (AB). Compared with contemporary Sphagnum moss from four bogs in rural locations of southern Germany (DE), the AB mosses yielded lower concentrations of Ag, Cd, Ni, Pb, Sb and Tl, similar concentrations of Mo, but greater concentrations of Ba, Th and V. Except for V, compared to the “cleanest”, ancient peat samples ever tested from the northern hemisphere (ca. 6,000 to 9,000 years old), the concentrations of each of these metals in the AB mosses are within a factor of three of “natural, background” values. The concentrations of “heavy metals” in the mosses, however, are proportional to the concentration of Th (a conservative, lithophile element) and therefore are contributed to the plants primarily in the form of mineral dust particles. Vanadium, the single most abundant trace metal in bitumen, is the only anomaly: in the AB mosses V exceeds that of ancient peat by a factor of six; it is therefore enriched in the mosses, relative to Th, by a factor of two. Compared with the surface layer of peat cores collected in recent years from across Canada, from British Columbia to New Brunswick, the Pb concentrations in the mosses from AB are far lower.

Concepts: Coal, Iron, Heavy metal music, Fen, Sphagnopsida, Moss, Bog, Sphagnum


Sphagnum moss extract residue (SMER), obtained after pressurized hot water extraction, was modified with Fe(III) and investigated for phosphate sorption. Although moss extract contains value-added compounds, SMER is considered to be waste until suitable uses can be developed. The effect of modification conditions were investigated, i.e. different initial Fe(III) concentrations (0.024, 0.048 and 0.072 mol/L Fe3+) and modification pH values (5, 7 and 9). A modification pH of 5 and the highest initial Fe(III) concentration (0.072 mol/L Fe3+) resulted in the highest phosphate removal efficiency, and thus was selected for further study. The removal efficiency was found to decrease with increasing pH in the range of 3-9. Maximum removal efficiency (82%) for phosphate sorption was observed at pH 3 after 24 h contact time (dosage 2 g/L, initial concentration 15 mg P/L). With increased contact time, the phosphate removal efficiency improved and reached equilibrium within 48 h. The Elovich model was found to provide the best fit to the kinetic data. A capacity of 9-13 mg P/g was obtained with a 24-h contact time at pH 4. A good fit was achieved with the Redlich-Peterson equation. FTIR analysis confirmed that carboxylic acid groups were involved in the modification process. X-ray diffraction analyses showed that amorphous two-line ferrihydrite was precipitated onto SMER, which was supported by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analyses.

Concepts: PH, Sphagnopsida, Diffraction, Moss, Carboxylic acid, Sphagnum, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, X-ray


In situ growth of Sphagnum riparium Ångstr. shoots were monitored during the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons in Karelia, Russia. It was established that shoot growth rates fluctuated with a period of around 30 days, that is, showed a circatrigintan rhythm. Such rhythms from mosses have not been previously reported. Correlation of growth rates with the percentage of the illuminated portion of the Moon was statistically significant (p<0.01) in both years. Shoot growth rates were reliably higher around the new Moon compared to the full Moon. This phenomenon may be due either to causality or to a pure coincidence of processes with similar rhythms.

Concepts: Soil, Month, Lunar phase, Correlation does not imply causation, Moon, Sphagnopsida, Moss, Sphagnum


Although a large body of literature exists on the use of transplanted mosses for biomonitoring of air pollution, no article has addressed so far the use and the accumulation performance of a cloned moss for this purpose. In this work, a direct comparison of metal accumulation between bags filled with a Sphagnum palustre L. clone or with native Pseudoscleropodium purum Hedw., one of the most used moss species in biomonitoring surveys, was investigated. The test was performed in sites with different atmospheric contamination levels selected in urban, industrial, agricultural and background areas of Italy and Spain. Among the eighteen elements investigated, S. palustre was significantly enriched in 10 elements (Al, Ba, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Pb, Sr, V and Zn), while P. purum was enriched only in 6 elements (Al, Ba, Cu, Hg, Pb and Sr), and had a consistently lower uptake capacity than S. palustre. The clone proved to be more sensitive in terms of metal uptake and showed a better performance as a bioaccumulator, providing a higher accumulation signal and allowing a finer distinction among the different land uses and levels of pollution. The excellent uptake performance of the S. palustre clone compared to the native P. purum and its low and stable baseline elemental content, evidenced in this work, are key features for the improvement of the moss bag approach and its large scale application.

Concepts: Pollution, Sphagnopsida, Sphagnum, Chromium, Chemical element, Iron, Moss


This paper presents the results of an experiment carried out for the first time in situ to select a treatment to devitalize mosses for use in active biomonitoring of water pollution. Three devitalizing treatments for the aquatic moss Fontinalis antipyretica were tested (i.e. oven-drying at 100 °C, oven-drying with a 50-80-100 °C temperature ramp, and boiling in water), and the effects of these on loss of material during exposure of the transplants and on the accumulation of different heavy metals and metalloids were determined. The suitability of using devitalized samples of the terrestrial moss Sphagnum denticulatum to biomonitor aquatic environments was also tested. The structure of mosses was altered in different ways by the devitalizing treatments. Devitalization by boiling water led to significantly less loss of material (p < 0.01) than the oven-drying treatments. However, devitalization by oven-drying with a temperature ramp yielded more stable results in relation to both loss of material and accumulation of elements. With the aim of standardizing the moss bag technique, the use of F. antipyretica devitalized by oven-drying with a temperature ramp is recommended, rather than other devitalization treatments or use of S. denticulatum.

Concepts: Sphagnopsida, Boiling, Moss, Heavy metal music, Sphagnum, Water


Using a culture-based nitrous oxide (N2O) emission assay, three active N2O emitters were isolated from Sphagnum fuscum leaves and all identified as members of Burkholderia. These isolates showed N2O emission in the medium supplemented with [Formula: see text] but not with [Formula: see text], and Burkholderia sp. SF-E2 showed the most efficient N2O emission (0.20 μg·vial(-1)·day(-1)) at 1.0 mM KNO3. In Burkholderia sp. SF-E2, the optimum pH for N2O production was 5.0, close to that of the phyllosphere of Sphagnum mosses, while the optimum temperature was uniquely over 30 °C. The stimulating effect of additional 1.5 mM sucrose on N2O emission was ignorable, but Burkholderia sp. SF-E2 upon exposure to 100 mg·L(-1) E-caffeic acid showed uniquely 67-fold higher N2O emission. All of the three N2O emitters were negative in both acetylene inhibition assay and PCR assay for nosZ-detection, suggesting that N2O reductase or the gene itself is missing in the N2O-emitting Burkholderia.

Concepts: Greenhouse gas, Soil, Burkholderia, Nitrous oxide, Nitrogen, Sphagnopsida, Moss, Sphagnum


Peat forming Sphagnum mosses are able to prevent the dominance of vascular plants under ombrotrophic conditions by efficiently scavenging atmospherically deposited nitrogen (N). N-uptake kinetics of these mosses are therefore expected to play a key role in differential N availability, plant competition, and carbon sequestration in Sphagnum peatlands. The interacting effects of rain N concentration and exposure time on moss N-uptake rates are, however, poorly understood. We investigated the effects of N-concentration (1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 µM), N-form ((15)N - ammonium or nitrate) and exposure time (0.5, 2, 72 h) on uptake kinetics for Sphagnum magellanicum from a pristine bog in Patagonia (Argentina) and from a Dutch bog exposed to decades of N-pollution. Uptake rates for ammonium were higher than for nitrate, and N-binding at adsorption sites was negligible. During the first 0.5 h, N-uptake followed saturation kinetics revealing a high affinity (Km 3.5-6.5 µM). Ammonium was taken up 8 times faster than nitrate, whereas over 72 hours this was only 2 times. Uptake rates decreased drastically with increasing exposure times, which implies that many short-term N-uptake experiments in literature may well have overestimated long-term uptake rates and ecosystem retention. Sphagnum from the polluted site (i.e. long-term N exposure) showed lower uptake rates than mosses from the pristine site, indicating an adaptive response. Sphagnum therefore appears to be highly efficient in using short N pulses (e.g. rainfall in pristine areas). This strategy has important ecological and evolutionary implications: at high N input rates, the risk of N-toxicity seems to be reduced by lower uptake rates of Sphagnum, at the expense of its long-term filter capacity and related competitive advantage over vascular plants. As shown by our conceptual model, interacting effects of N-deposition and climate change (changes in rainfall) will seriously alter the functioning of Sphagnum peatlands.

Concepts: Peat, Soil, Sphagnopsida, Time, Bog, Plant, Moss, Sphagnum