Biomechanical properties of the terrestrial mosses Pleurozium schreberi (Brid.) Mitt. and Pogonatum japonicum Sull. & Lesq. along altitudinal gradients in northern Japan

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Heinjo J During
Betty Verduyn
Annika K Jägerbrand

Altitudinal gradients along mountain slopes provide valuable opportunities to study variation in plant traits in response to changes in environmental conditions along such  gradients. This study focused on biomechanical traits of two moss species, the more or less horizontally growing Pleurozium schreberi and the erect-growing Pogonatum japonicum, along altitudinal gradients on two mountains in Hokkaido, northern Japan.

We measured stem diameter in two directions to determine the second moment of area I, used three-point bending tests with free stem ends to determine the slope of the force-deflection curve dF/dx, and used these data to calculate Young’s modulus and flexural rigidity of the stems. Both species showed much variation in all traits among replicates in the samples at each altitude. Environmental variation associated with altitude had more effect on the biomechanical traits of P. japonicum than on those of P. schreberi. Stems of P. japonicum were thicker (larger I) than those of P. schreberi and had a larger Young’s modulus and flexural rigidity. Stems tended to become thinner (lower second moment of area) and less rigid (lower flexural rigidity) at increasing altitude in both species.

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