Glasshouse vs field experiments: do they yield ecologically similar results for assessing impacts on peat mosses?

J. Limpens, G. Granath, R. Aerts, M.M.P.D. Heijmans, L.J. Sheppard, L. Bragazza, B.L. Williams, H. Rydin, J. Bubier, T. Moore, L. Rochefort, E.A.D. Mitchell, A. Buttler, L. van den Berg, U. Gunnarsson, A.J. Francez, R. Gerdol, M. Thormann, P. Grosvernier, M.M. WiedermannM.B. Nilsson, M.R. Hoosbeek, S. Bayley, J.F. Nordbakken, M.P.C. Paulissen, S. Hotes, A. Breewer, M. Ilomets, H.B.M. Tomassen, I. Leith, B. Xu

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    • Peat bogs have accumulated more atmospheric carbon (C) than any other terrestrial ecosystem today. Most of this C is associated with peat moss (Sphagnum) litter. Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition can decrease Sphagnum production, compromising the C sequestration capacity of peat bogs. The mechanisms underlying the reduced production are uncertain, necessitating multifactorial experiments. • We investigated whether glasshouse experiments are reliable proxies for field experiments for assessing interactions between N deposition and environment as controls on Sphagnum N concentration and production. We performed a meta-analysis over 115 glasshouse experiments and 107 field experiments. • We found that glasshouse and field experiments gave similar qualitative and quantitative estimates of changes in Sphagnum N concentration in response to N application. However, glasshouse-based estimates of changes in production - even qualitative assessments - diverged from field experiments owing to a stronger N effect on production response in absence of vascular plants in the glasshouse, and a weaker N effect on production response in presence of vascular plants compared to field experiments. • Thus, although we need glasshouse experiments to study how interacting environmental factors affect the response of Sphagnum to increased N deposition, we need field experiments to properly quantify these effects. © 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)408-418
    JournalNew Phytologist
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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