Interspecies comparison of three moss species (Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, and Isothecium stoloniferum) as biomonitors of trace element deposition

  • Phaedra CowdenEmail author
  • Julian Aherne


Biomonitoring with mosses is a common method widely used to assess the spatial and temporal trends of atmospheric deposition in Europe since its introduction in the 1970s. Based on previous investigations, certain moss species provide the most accurate reflection of atmospheric deposition. However, sampling of just one species across large areas can pose a challenge, therefore the ability to use multiple moss species interchangeably is integral to an effective moss biomonitoring survey. In this study, biomonitoring abilities of two common species (Hylocomium splendens [Hs] and Pleurozium schreberi [Ps]) were compared to a potential new biomonitoring species endemic to North America (Isothecium stoloniferum [Is]). Thirteen metal concentrations were analyzed (Al, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Cd, and Pb) in moss tissue from 20 sites with co-located species (Ps/Hs, Is/Hs) Five metals (Al, V, Fe, Ni, and Pb) showed significant and strong correlations (Spearman correlation, r ≥ 0.7 α = 0.05) for all three species, reflecting the established deposition gradient in the region. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in observations (and moderate correlation) for Cr, which suggests that all species exhibited similar uptake abilities for these six metals (Al, V, Cr, Fe, Ni, and Pb). Four metals (Co, As, Se, and Cd) exhibited concentrations below detection at a number of sites, which may have influenced the assessment of interspecies relationships. It is recommended that interspecies calibration be carried out under all surveys that employ multiple moss species.


Bryophytes Kitimat British Columbia Large-point source emissions Interspecies calibration 



The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge Patrick Williston for provision of moss samples and support with species identification and Emily Olmstead for fieldwork assistance. Also, thanks to Eric Sager, Richard Caners, and Shaun Watmough for feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. The authors would like to thank Rio Tinto BC Works for financial, logistical, and safety support.

Funding information

This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from an NSERC Discovery grant (JA), and an NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship (PC).

Supplementary material

10661_2019_7354_MOESM1_ESM.docx (119 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 118 kb)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental and Life SciencesTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

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