Friday, August 19, 2011

Seeking the Wild Sphagnum

Posted by Sam Wright on behalf of Rich Norby

One of my primary objectives for this trip has been to learn some of the plants and plant communities of the tundra. I've read about them, of course, and looked at photos, but nothing compares with seeing them live. I've been especially interested in the Sphagnum species. Sphagnum mosses are really cool. They shape the environment in important ways, and they should be good indicators of changes in site hydrology. We saw a lot of Sphagnum at the Council site on Tuesday. One of the species is probably S. fuscum. I don't want to guess at the other species, but I collected samples to send to the experts. Even without knowing species, it was clear that some species were morphologically adapted for relatively drier conditions and some for wetter conditions. This differetiation creates interesting research opportunities. As we moved north on Wednesday, I saw progressively less Sphagnum. From what I had read, I didn't expect to see any Sphagnum here in Barrow, but I did see some yesterday, and perhaps when we get back out field site today, I'll see more.