Temperature impact on the influence of penguin-derived nutrients and mosses on non-native grass in a simulated polar ecosystem

Human activity and climate change are increasing the spread of species across the planet, threatening biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Invasion engineers, such as birds, facilitate plant growth through manuring of soil, while native vegetation influences plant germination by creating suitable microhabitats which are especially valuable in cold and dry polar regions. Here we tested how penguin-derived nitrogen, several common Antarctic moss species and warming affect seed germination and growth of the non-native grass Agrostis capillaris under laboratory conditions. Experimental settings included a simulation of contemporary season-specific Antarctic light and temperature (2 °C) conditions and a +5 °C warming scenario. Mosses (Andreaea depressinervis, A. regularis, Sanionia uncinata and Chorisodontium aciphyllum) incorporated a range of nitrogen content and isotopic nitrogen signatures (δ15N) due to variation in sampling proximity to penguin colonies. Moss species greatly affected time to germination with consequences for further growth under the simulated Antarctic conditions. Grass seeds germinated 10 days earlier among A. regularis compared to S. uncinata and C. aciphyllum and 26 days earlier compared to A. depressinervis. Moss-specific effects are likely related to microclimatic differences within the moss canopy. Warming reduced this moss influence. Grass emerged on average 20 days earlier under warming, leading to increased leaf count (88%), plant height (112%) and biomass (145%). Positive correlations were identified between moss and grass nitrogen content (r = 0.377), grass biomass (r = 0.332) and height (r = 0.742) with stronger effects under the warming scenario. Transfer of nitrogen from moss to grass was confirmed by δ15N (r = 0.803). Overall, the results suggest a shift from temperature-limited to N-limited growth of invasive plants under increased warming in the maritime Antarctic.


Publication status:
Authors: Bokhorst, S., Convey, P. ORCIDORCID record for P. Convey, van Logtestijn, R., Aerts, R.

On this site: Peter Convey
1 February, 2022
Global Change Biology / 28
Link to published article: