Natural re-colonization of experimental gaps by terricolous bryophytes in Central European pine forests
Heinken, Thilo; Zippel, Elke
In northeastern German pine forests we studied re-colonization patterns of experimental gaps by four dominant bryophyte species (Dicranum scoparium, Hypnum jutlandicum, Pleurozium schreberi and Scleropodium purum) over three years. Both vegetation and litter layer were removed on 1 m2 plots within ± pure colonies of the experimental species, while the humus layer was left intact. All plots were vegetatively re-colonized by the species which was dominant before gap creation. Three mechanisms of re-colonization occurred and interacted: (1) advance of surrounding shoots from the edge into the gaps by clonal growth, (2) dispersal of detached single shoots as well as larger clumps of multiple shoots into the plots, resulting in new colonies by continuing growth, and (3) regeneration from a soil diaspore bank consisting of seemingly dead stem fragments in the humus layer of the gaps. Scleropodium purum, which occurs at locations with good water and nutrient supply, displayed the most rapid growth. Here, some plots were completely recovered after three years. Despite lower rates of advance from the edge, colonization of Hypnum jutlandicum was faster than and of Dicranum scoparium as fast than that of Pleurozium schreberi because of a larger diaspore bank. Thus, each bryophyte species was characterized by a different habitat occupation strategy. The different clonal colonization strategies account for the high competitive capacity and regeneration potential of the investigated bryophyte species in pine forests despite of the lack of generative reproduction. Experimental disturbance resulted in a temporary increase of bryophyte diversity, because short-lived Colonists with a low competitive capacity colonized the gaps, before they will be overgrown by the dominant Perennials.