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  1. Abstract Background and Aims

    Sphagnum (peatmoss) comprises a moss (Bryophyta) clade with ~300–500 species. The genus has unparalleled ecological importance because Sphagnum-dominated peatlands store almost a third of the terrestrial carbon pool and peatmosses engineer the formation and microtopography of peatlands. Genomic resources for Sphagnum are being actively expanded, but many aspects of their biology are still poorly known. Among these are the degree to which Sphagnum species reproduce asexually, and the relative frequencies of male and female gametophytes in these haploid-dominant plants. We assess clonality and gametophyte sex ratios and test hypotheses about the local-scale distribution of clones and sexes in four North American species of the S. magellanicum complex. These four species are difficult to distinguish morphologically and are very closely related. We also assess microbial communities associated with Sphagnum host plant clones and sexes at two sites.


    Four hundred and five samples of the four species, representing 57 populations, were subjected to restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RADseq). Analyses of population structure and clonality based on the molecular data utilized both phylogenetic and phenetic approaches. Multi-locus genotypes (genets) were identified using the RADseq data. Sexes of sampled ramets were determined using a molecular approach that utilized coverage of loci on the sex chromosomes after the method was validated using a sample of plants that expressed sex phenotypically. Sex ratios were estimated for each species, and populations within species. Difference in fitness between genets was estimated as the numbers of ramets each genet comprised. Degrees of clonality [numbers of genets/numbers of ramets (samples)] within species, among sites, and between gametophyte sexes were estimated. Sex ratios were estimated for each species, and populations within species. Sphagnum-associated microbial communities were assessed at two sites in relation to Sphagnum clonality and sex.

    Key Results

    All four species appear to engage in a mixture of sexual and asexual (clonal) reproduction. A single ramet represents most genets but two to eight ramets were dsumbers ansd text etected for some genets. Only one genet is represented by ramets in multiple populations; all other genets are restricted to a single population. Within populations ramets of individual genets are spatially clustered, suggesting limited dispersal even within peatlands. Sex ratios are male-biased in S. diabolicum but female-biased in the other three species, although significantly so only in S. divinum. Neither species nor males/females differ in levels of clonal propagation. At St Regis Lake (NY) and Franklin Bog (VT), microbial community composition is strongly differentiated between the sites, but differences between species, genets and sexes were not detected. Within S. divinum, however, female gametophytes harboured two to three times the number of microbial taxa as males.


    These four Sphagnum species all exhibit similar reproductive patterns that result from a mixture of sexual and asexual reproduction. The spatial patterns of clonally replicated ramets of genets suggest that these species fall between the so-called phalanx patterns, where genets abut one another but do not extensively mix because of limited ramet fragmentation, and the guerrilla patterns, where extensive genet fragmentation and dispersal result in greater mixing of different genets. Although sex ratios in bryophytes are most often female-biased, both male and female biases occur in this complex of closely related species. The association of far greater microbial diversity for female gametophytes in S. divinum, which has a female-biased sex ratio, suggests additional research to determine if levels of microbial diversity are consistently correlated with differing patterns of sex ratio biases.

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  2. Abstract

    Peatlands are crucial sinks for atmospheric carbon but are critically threatened due to warming climates.Sphagnum(peat moss) species are keystone members of peatland communities where they actively engineer hyperacidic conditions, which improves their competitive advantage and accelerates ecosystem-level carbon sequestration. To dissect the molecular and physiological sources of this unique biology, we generated chromosome-scale genomes of twoSphagnumspecies:S. divinumandS. angustifolium.Sphagnumgenomes show no gene colinearity with any other reference genome to date, demonstrating thatSphagnumrepresents an unsampled lineage of land plant evolution. The genomes also revealed an average recombination rate an order of magnitude higher than vascular land plants and short putative U/V sex chromosomes. These newly described sex chromosomes interact with autosomal loci that significantly impact growth across diverse pH conditions. This discovery demonstrates that the ability ofSphagnumto sequester carbon in acidic peat bogs is mediated by interactions between sex, autosomes and environment.

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  3. Abstract

    Bryophytes generally have broad geographical ranges that suggest high dispersal ability. The aim of this study was to test hypotheses about dispersal limitation, as indicated by isolation by distance, in four spore-producing species of the moss genus Sphagnum (Sphagnum carolinianum, Sphagnum missouricum, Sphagnum macrophyllum and Sphagnum pylaesii) and to assess whether plants in the southern USA harbour high levels of unique alleles and/or other indicators of exceptional genetic diversity. Isolation by distance was detected in all four species, but regional patterns of genetic structure were very species specific. Northern and southern genotype groups were detected in S. carolinianum and S. missouricum, but in S. pylaesii plants from the Adirondack Mountains of New York were genetically distinct from others to the north and south. One species, S. macrophyllum, exhibited differentiation between northern and southern genetic groups that appeared to reflect more ancient phylogenetic diversification.

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  4. Martiny, Jennifer B. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Peat mosses of the genus Sphagnum are ecosystem engineers that frequently predominate over photosynthetic production in boreal peatlands. Sphagnum spp. host diverse microbial communities capable of nitrogen fixation (diazotrophy) and methane oxidation (methanotrophy), thereby potentially supporting plant growth under severely nutrient-limited conditions. Moreover, diazotrophic methanotrophs represent a possible “missing link” between the carbon and nitrogen cycles, but the functional contributions of the Sphagnum -associated microbiome remain in question. A combination of metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and dual-isotope incorporation assays was applied to investigate Sphagnum microbiome community composition across the North American continent and provide empirical evidence for diazotrophic methanotrophy in Sphagnum -dominated ecosystems. Remarkably consistent prokaryotic communities were detected in over 250 Sphagnum SSU rRNA libraries from peatlands across the United States (5 states, 17 bog/fen sites, 18 Sphagnum species), with 12 genera of the core microbiome comprising 60% of the relative microbial abundance. Additionally, nitrogenase ( nifH ) and SSU rRNA gene amplicon analysis revealed that nitrogen-fixing populations made up nearly 15% of the prokaryotic communities, predominated by Nostocales cyanobacteria and Rhizobiales methanotrophs. While cyanobacteria comprised the vast majority (>95%) of diazotrophs detected in amplicon and metagenome analyses, obligate methanotrophs of the genus Methyloferula (order Rhizobiales ) accounted for one-quarter of transcribed nifH genes. Furthermore, in dual-isotope tracer experiments, members of the Rhizobiales showed substantial incorporation of 13 CH 4 and 15 N 2 isotopes into their rRNA. Our study characterizes the core Sphagnum microbiome across large spatial scales and indicates that diazotrophic methanotrophs, here defined as obligate methanotrophs of the rare biosphere ( Methyloferula spp. of the Rhizobiales ) that also carry out diazotrophy, play a keystone role in coupling of the carbon and nitrogen cycles in nutrient-poor peatlands. IMPORTANCE Nitrogen availability frequently limits photosynthetic production in Sphagnum moss-dominated high-latitude peatlands, which are crucial carbon-sequestering ecosystems at risk to climate change effects. It has been previously suggested that microbial methane-fueled fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (N 2 ) may occur in these ecosystems, but this process and the organisms involved are largely uncharacterized. A combination of omics (DNA and RNA characterization) and dual-isotope incorporation approaches illuminated the functional diversity of Sphagnum -associated microbiomes and defined 12 bacterial genera in its core microbiome at the continental scale. Moreover, obligate diazotrophic methanotrophs showed high nitrogen fixation gene expression levels and incorporated a substantial amount of atmospheric nitrogen and methane-driven carbon into their biomass. Thus, these results point to a central role for members of the rare biosphere in Sphagnum microbiomes as keystone species that couple nitrogen fixation to methane oxidation in nutrient-poor peatlands. 
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  5. Stajich, Jason E. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT We present 49 metagenome assemblies of the microbiome associated with Sphagnum (peat moss) collected from ambient, artificially warmed, and geothermally warmed conditions across Europe. These data will enable further research regarding the impact of climate change on plant-microbe symbiosis, ecology, and ecosystem functioning of northern peatland ecosystems. 
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  6. Abstract

    Interactions between Sphagnum (peat moss) and cyanobacteria play critical roles in terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycling processes. Knowledge of the metabolites exchanged, the physiological processes involved, and the environmental conditions allowing the formation of symbiosis is important for a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying these interactions. In this study, we used a cross-feeding approach with spatially resolved metabolite profiling and metatranscriptomics to characterize the symbiosis between Sphagnum and Nostoc cyanobacteria. A pH gradient study revealed that the Sphagnum–Nostoc symbiosis was driven by pH, with mutualism occurring only at low pH. Metabolic cross-feeding studies along with spatially resolved matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) identified trehalose as the main carbohydrate source released by Sphagnum, which were depleted by Nostoc along with sulfur-containing choline-O-sulfate, taurine and sulfoacetate. In exchange, Nostoc increased exudation of purines and amino acids. Metatranscriptome analysis indicated that Sphagnum host defense was downregulated when in direct contact with the Nostoc symbiont, but not as a result of chemical contact alone. The observations in this study elucidated environmental, metabolic, and physiological underpinnings of the widespread plant–cyanobacterial symbioses with important implications for predicting carbon and nitrogen cycling in peatland ecosystems as well as the basis of general host-microbe interactions.

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  7. Summary

    Species in the genusSphagnumcreate, maintain, and dominate boreal peatlands through ‘extended phenotypes’ that allow these organisms to engineer peatland ecosystems and thereby impact global biogeochemical cycles. One such phenotype is the production of peat, or incompletely decomposed biomass, that accumulates when rates of growth exceed decomposition. Interspecific variation in peat production is thought to be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of ecological gradients such as the microtopographic hummock‐hollow gradient, along which sympatric species sort within communities.

    This study investigated the mode and tempo of functional trait evolution across 15 species ofSphagnumusing data from the most extensive studies ofSphagnumfunctional traits to date and phylogenetic comparative methods.

    We found evidence for phylogenetic conservatism of the niche descriptor height‐above‐water‐table and of traits related to growth, decay and litter quality. However, we failed to detect the influence of phylogeny on interspecific variation in other traits such as shoot density and suggest that environmental context can obscure phylogenetic signal. Trait correlations indicate possible adaptive syndromes that may relate to niche and its construction.

    This study is the first to formally test the extent to which functional trait variation amongSphagnumspecies is a result of shared evolutionary history.

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