Bryophyte dynamics across wetland and lakeshore edges in southwest Nova Scotia
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Wetlands are effective carbon sinks, supply clean water, enhance soil nutrition, and are regarded as valuable ecosystems. Bryophytes play a key role in wetland functioning. Previous studies have looked at wetlands as whole systems; however, little is known about the dynamics at their edges. To better understand the transitions between wetlands and the surrounding forest, I had three objectives for both bog and lakeshore edges: (1) to determine if substrate moisture and pH are associated with different bryophytes, (2) to estimate the distance of edge influence (the distances from the edge where a variable is significantly different from the interior bog or forest) for bryophyte abundance, and (3) to determine the pattern of bryophyte species richness. Transects 360m long were set up across 4 bog and 4 lakeshore edges in southwest Nova Scotia extending from the wetlands into the forest. Cover was estimated for all identifiable bryophyte species in 1m x 1m contiguous quadrats. Bryophytes and soils were collected at given sampling points and analyzed in the lab. The results found that soil moisture was more associated with edge structure than was pH and canopy cover, and differed greatly between wetland and lakeshore edges. Distance of edge influence was found to be quite variable depending on the species and extended as far as 40m from the edge for some bryophyte species. While the levels of bryophyte species richness were found to be higher at the edge, bryophyte abundance was found to be relatively low. The higher bryophyte species richness and different characteristics of the edge zone indicate that it is a unique habitat on the landscape and could therefore be important for conservation. A distance of edge influence extending as far as 40m from the edge also suggests that any riparian zone or forested buffer around wetland habitats should be at least this wide to effectively conserve these unique edge habitats.