Chemical Reactions, CR 2: Energy in Reactions (HS), E 1: Energy Flow (HS), Earth Science, Earth's System, Energy, ES 1: Materials/Energy Flow (MS), ES 4: Carbon Cycling (HS), ES 5: Life on Earth (HS), Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, IR 1: Ecosystem Interactions (MS), IR 3: Ecosystem Stability (HS), Life Science, M&E 3: Food Webs (MS), M&E 4: Biogeochemical Cycles (MS), M&E 5: Matter/Energy Cycles (HS), M&E 6: Biogeochemical Cycles (HS), Matter & Energy in Organisms/Ecosystems, Physical Science, W&C 2: Biomes (MS), W&C 2: Future Climate (HS), Weather and Climate

Moss-Cyanobacteria relationship in the boreal forest

Moss-cyanobacteria associations as biogenic sources of nitrogen in boreal forest ecosystems

SUMMARY: Moss, cyanobacteria, and the trees of the boreal forest share a complicated relationship. This article first focuses on the nitrogen cycle, addressing the various sources of nitrogen and the factors (both abiotic and biotic) that affect nitrogen fixation. Turns out, temperature, water availability, phosphorus deposits, and carbon availability/decomposition, all affect the rate of nitrogen fixation. The last part of the article looks at the still-unknown relationship of cyanobacteria and moss. Researchers suggest that more studies are needed to understand how these two organisms work together and the role their symbiosis plays in the boreal forest ecosystem.

LESSON COMMENTS: The article covers many concepts in environmental science including: the nitrogen cycle, the hydrological cycle, the carbon cycle, the phosphorus cycle, symbiotic relationships, and abiotic factors. Other topics covered include: protein synthesis, enzyme function, moss and nonvascular plant physiology, cyanobacteria toxins, and decomposition causes and rates. The following questions come to mind:

  1. How does global warming impact the moss-cyanobacteria relationship?
  2. How does increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide change the rate of photosynthesis and nitrogen fixing?
  3. How does decomposition rates affect the amount of carbon and nitrogen sources available in soils?
  4. How does increasing temperatures change the water availability, and thus the rate of nitrogen fixation?

I purposely did not write a very long summary because there is so much information in this article. It’s easy to read, and based on the number of NGSS standards it can help cover, I think it’s best for you (the teacher) to pull what you need out of this article.

Rousk, K., Jones, D. L., & Deluca, T. H. (2013). Moss-cyanobacteria associations as biogenic sources of nitrogen in boreal forest ecosystems. Frontiers in microbiology, 4, 150. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2013.00150