Sphagnum peatlands as a unique habitat for the long-term survival of glacial relicts: a case study of Betula nana

Friday, 19 December 2014
Sandra Slowinska1, Michal M. Slowinski2,3, Agnieszka M. Noryśkiewicz4, Mariusz Lamentowicz5 and Piotr Kołaczek5, (1)Institute of Technology and Life Sciences, Raszyn, Poland, (2)Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Polish Academy of Sciences,, Department of Environmental Resources and Geohazards, Torun, Poland, (3)Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section 5.2: Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution, Potsdam, Germany, (4)Nicholas Copernicus University, Institute of Archaeology, Torun, Poland, (5)Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
Sphagnum peatlands are characterized by distinctive vegetation, hydrology and local climate. They are very important areas for flora and fauna. In the last decade, much effort was made at better understanding of microrefugia and their important role in post-glacial migration of various plant species. The aim of this study is to explain a long-term persistence of the glacial relict Betula nana in a Sphagnum peatland in northern Poland far from the southern range of its natural distribution. We suppose that the persistence of Betula nana is driven by a) the morphology and geology of the catchment, b) the maintenance of open vegetation on the peatland surface and c) exceptional microclimatic and hydrological conditions. A detailed research was carried out on the peat profile using pollen analysis, to reconstruct the presence of open habitat on the mire during the Holocene. Furthermore, detailed monitoring of local climate, hydrology of the peatland and the surrounding area was conducted. The pollen analysis revealed a continuous presence of Betula nana in the postglacial history of the peatland. The results of local climate monitoring indicated that the mire possesses a typical microclimate, with air temperature amplitude much higher in relation to the open area, in particular during the growing season. This, in combination with the hydrology, which depends on the geology of the surrounding area, affects Betula nana population. Linje mire is a unique microrefugium sustained by local factors such as microclimate, geology, local relief and hydrology. However, it is still challenging to explain the intriguing case why this species still occurs within the study site.

This work was funded by the National Science Centre grant NN306060940 and Polish-Swiss Research Programme PSPB-013/2010. This study is a contribution to the Virtual Institute of Integrated Climate and Landscape Evolution (ICLEA) of the Helmholtz Association.