2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
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2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

The functional role of moss in structuring biotic interactions and terrestrialization of Antarctica

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Christian Fritsen

ASC POC/Implementer:
Chelsea Wegner / Cara Ferrier

Principal Investigator

Dr. Dr. Sarah Margaretha Eppley

Portland State University
Department of Biology
Portland, Oregon


Supporting Stations: Special Project
Research Locations: King George and Livingston Islands


Despite the harsh abiotic conditions, more than 100 moss species occur in Antarctica (compared with only two flowering plants). As the continent becomes warmer and wetter, mosses are colonizing newly exposed ground and are predicted to become even more dominant. Researchers will test hypotheses concerning the effects of warming on how Antarctic mosses structure terrestrial ecosystems. Using open-top chamber passive-warming experiments previously installed by a Chilean collaborator on King George and Livingston islands, researchers will concentrate on how warming impacts bryophyte productivity, sexual systems, and secondary chemistries, and how these changes affect community processes. They will pursue three integrated research hypotheses: (1) Warming will alter moss species composition, moss sex ratio, and deferentially impact moss productivity and reproductive success in Antarctica; (2) Warming will impact the production of moss secondary compounds, influencing the dynamics of biotic interactions and biosphere-atmosphere exchange in terrestrial Antarctica; and (3) Warming will alter moss-microbe interactions, resulting in alterations to the moss food web and community dynamics in terrestrial Antarctica. The data will be the first comprehensive measures of how Antarctic mosses engineer their environment and thereby drive terrestrial responses to global warming.

Field Season Overview

Researchers with this project, in collaboration with Chilean scientists from the University of Santiago, will travel to Antarctica from Chile with support from the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH). They will reside on the Chilean base Profesor Julio Escudero on King George Island where they have long-term Open Top Chamber (OTC) warming experiments from which they will collect terrestrial moss and air samples. They will also collect samples from the moss Ceratodon purpureus at other terrestrial sites on KGI, which they will reach by Zodiac inflatable boat.

Deploying Team Members

  • Maria Casanova-Katny
  • Hannah Prather
  • Todd Rosenstiel (Co-PI)