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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Differentiating moss from higher plants is critical in studying the carbon cycle of the boreal biome.

  • Author(s): Yuan, Wenping
  • Liu, Shuguang
  • Dong, Wenjie
  • Liang, Shunlin
  • Zhao, Shuqing
  • Chen, Jingming
  • Xu, Wenfang
  • Li, Xianglan
  • Barr, Alan
  • Andrew Black, T
  • Yan, Wende
  • Goulden, Mike L
  • Kulmala, Liisa
  • Lindroth, Anders
  • Margolis, Hank A
  • Matsuura, Yojiro
  • Moors, Eddy
  • van der Molen, Michiel
  • Ohta, Takeshi
  • Pilegaard, Kim
  • Varlagin, Andrej
  • Vesala, Timo
  • et al.

The satellite-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), which is used for estimating gross primary production (GPP), often includes contributions from both mosses and vascular plants in boreal ecosystems. For the same NDVI, moss can generate only about one-third of the GPP that vascular plants can because of its much lower photosynthetic capacity. Here, based on eddy covariance measurements, we show that the difference in photosynthetic capacity between these two plant functional types has never been explicitly included when estimating regional GPP in the boreal region, resulting in a substantial overestimation. The magnitude of this overestimation could have important implications regarding a change from a current carbon sink to a carbon source in the boreal region. Moss abundance, associated with ecosystem disturbances, needs to be mapped and incorporated into GPP estimates in order to adequately assess the role of the boreal region in the global carbon cycle.

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