Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Biology

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Zoë Lindo

Abstract

Interactions between plants and soil are increasingly recognised as drivers of ecosystems through dictating ecosystem properties and processes. My thesis explores the linkage between aboveground and belowground in Boreal peatlands, where soil (i.e., peat) is partially decomposed plant material, thus presenting opportunity for strong plant-soil relationships to arise. In an observational study, I show feedbacks between chemical plant traits (e.g., leaf N) of the dominant ecosystem engineer (Sphagnum moss or Carex sedge) and peat environment drive slow or fast cycles to regulate aboveground plant growth and belowground peat properties such as pH, moisture and nutrients, in two contrasting peatland types. In a field experiment, I show pure and mixed litters of dominant peatland plants (Sphagnum and Carex) decompose more quickly in their site of origin, consistent with a home-field advantage. Peatland plant-soil feedbacks shape ecosystem properties and decompositional processes, collectively dictating ecosystem function, such as nutrient cycling and carbon storage.


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