Peatlands harbour more than one-third of terrestrial carbon leading to the argument that the bryophytes, as major components of peatland ecosystems, store more organic carbon in soils than any other collective plant taxa. Plants of the genus Sphagnum are important components of peatland ecosystems and are potentially vulnerable to changing climatic conditions. However, the response of Sphagnum to rising temperatures, elevated CO2 and shifts in local hydrology have yet to be fully characterized. In this review, we examine Sphagnum biology and ecology and explore the role of this group of keystone species and its associated microbiome in carbon and nitrogen cycling using literature review and model simulations. Several issues are highlighted including the consequences of a variable environment on plant-microbiome interactions, uncertainty associated with CO2 diffusion resistances and the relationship between fixed N and that partitioned to the photosynthetic apparatus. We note that the Sphagnum fallax genome is currently being sequenced and outline potential applications of population-level genomics and corresponding plant photosynthesis and microbial metabolic modelling techniques. We highlight Sphagnum as a model organism to explore ecosystem response to a changing climate and to define the role that Sphagnum can play at the intersection of physiology, genetics and functional genomics.
The perceived low levels of genetic diversity, poor interspecific competitive and defensive ability, and loss of dispersal capacities of insular lineages have driven the view that oceanic islands are evolutionary dead ends. Focusing on the Atlantic bryophyte flora distributed across the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, Western Europe, and northwestern Africa, we used an integrative approach with species distribution modeling and population genetic analyses based on approximate Bayesian computation to determine whether this view applies to organisms with inherent high dispersal capacities. Genetic diversity was found to be higher in island than in continental populations, contributing to mounting evidence that, contrary to theoretical expectations, island populations are not necessarily genetically depauperate. Patterns of genetic variation among island and continental populations consistently fitted those simulated under a scenario of de novo foundation of continental populations from insular ancestors better than those expected if islands would represent a sink or a refugium of continental biodiversity. We, suggest that the northeastern Atlantic archipelagos have played a key role as a stepping stone for transoceanic migrants. Our results challenge the traditional notion that oceanic islands are the end of the colonization road and illustrate the significant role of oceanic islands as reservoirs of novel biodiversity for the assembly of continental floras.