Physiology and stable isotope ecology of moss growth for modelling spatial and temporal climatic signals

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Plant Sciences

Abstract

The impact of climate change is predicted to be particularly intense in polar regions. Warmer and wetter conditions in the Arctic, where extensive moss dominated habitats are found, could lead to melting of permafrost and an increase in moss growth whilst forests decline. Our existing work has included developing innovative models which use the stable isotope composition of organic matter to provide information about moss growth. This work incorporated both moss preserved for thousands of years in Antarctic peat-moss banks, and desiccation-tolerant mosses that commonly grow on roofs and paths and are rapidly activated following a rain shower. Our previous work has shown that the stable isotope composition of carbon provides a reliable indicator of moss growing season, and the impact of climate change. However other naturally-occurring stable isotope signals in water (e.g 18O in water), associated with precipitation inputs and water vapour exchange, have until now been less well defined as markers of evaporative demand.

In this proposal, we will increase our understanding of moss growth dynamics to include how plants respond to different evaporative conditions, how different types of moss grow, what conditions are best for the fixation of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and growth through the synthesis of organic matter. These developments in moss physiology will be integrated with local weather conditions in models of moss growth that can be applied across large areas to predict periods of plant growth. We will carry out laboratory experiments in which moss growth is manipulated, monitored and measured, using isotope labels and growth responses under different temperature, humidity and drying regimes. We will work on moss species that grow in a range of habitats from wet bog Sphagnums, through hummock forming Polytrichales to desiccation tolerant Syntrichia. At the field scale, the same mosses will be regularly monitored in their natural environment, testing how the experimentally determined dynamics apply within an ecologically relevant setting. The combination of lab and field measurements will firstly allow us to determine the controls on moss organic matter 18O composition as climatic conditions vary. Secondly, remote sensing field measurements will be made from a distance of several metres using newly developed LIFT (laser induced fluouresence transient) technology. By understanding the link between moss growth dynamics and photosynthetic activation over this larger spatial scale we will establish a baseline that will allow remote sensing methodologies, such as measurements from aeroplanes and satellites, to be used to monitor moss performance in the future.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
1. Academics and researchers in photosynthesis research.
2. Academics and researchers in palaeoclimate research.
3. Government and international agencies involved in evaluating ecosystem services, conservation and the impact of climate change.
4. Postdoctoral researcher employed on the project.
5. The general public and the need for outreach activities to explain the impacts of a changing climate and interaction with the water cycle
6. The next generation: school children and undergraduate students

How will they benefit from this research?

1. Researchers will receive comprehensive new information about the biochemical fractionation factor of mosses with different life forms, relative timings of assimilation and growth and the scaling up of fluorescence measurements from leaf to regional scales.
2. Researchers working on palaeoclimate peat archives will have new tools to facilitate interpretation of both records that have previously been analysed, and new archives
3. The research will have a major impact on the fundamental understanding that will be essential as novel fluorescence techniques are scaled up to be used over a large spatial areas to assess ecosystem and habitat change
4. The PDRA will receive a wide training in plant integrative physiological ecology, professional skills and wider training courses, and the opportunity to interact closely with researchers on an international scale.
5. The research findings relate to issues of public interest including biodiversity and climate change.
6. The research has wide educational value, at all levels through schools and Universities

What will be done to ensure they benefit from this research?

1. Publish results in high-impact journals in a timely fashion. Present research results at international meetings and institutions
2. Submit data and models to relevant international depositories.
3 Ensure outputs are disseminated for uptake by government and conservation agencies.
4. Provide information and mentoring to ensure uptake of postdoctoral training schemes, including regular progress reviews and career development plans. Encourage participation in the dissemination of results, and understanding of the wider implications and applications of the research.
5. Use results as part of our regular engagement with non-academic audiences, e.g. local interest groups, schools, local and national shows, science showcases, media. Take advantage of the display opportunities at Wicken Fen Visitor Centre.
6. Involve school children and undergraduate students in a practical sense (visits, websites providing teaching resources, blogging and laboratory summer placements for undergraduates).
 
Description Work is at a preliminary stage as the appointed PDRA has been on maternity leave from June 2015- April 2016. Good progress on methods has been obtained by her initial work, augmented by an excellent summer student who initiated research on mosses using the state of the art LIFT fluorescence system, as well as establishing growth chamber conditions for mosses in the laboratory, and preparing outreach materials for Wicken Fen National Trust Nature Reserve. For the past year we have undertaken regular samplings of mosses with contrasting lifeforms across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
Exploitation Route Outreach and education; also use of fluorometer by allied research groups to test applicability in support of vegetation dynamics models.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Environment

URL http://www.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/research/howardgriffiths
 
Description To support educational and outreach activities to explain the potential impact of climate change on natural vegetation
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in IPCC 5th assessment report on climate change
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact These are published materials composed of the full scientific and technical assessment of climate change, generally in three volumes, one for each of the Working Groups of the IPCC, plus a Synthesis Report. Each of the Working Group volumes is composed of individual chapters, an optional Technical Summary and a Summary for Policymakers. The Synthesis Report synthesizes and integrates materials contained within the Assessment Reports and Special Reports and is written in a non-technical style suitable for policymakers and address a broad-range of policy-relevant but policy-neutral questions. It is composed of a longer report and a Summary for Policymakers. The scientific observations cited in the report confirm the impact of global warming on moss growth on the Antarctic peninsula
URL https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/
 
Description Holocene evolution of the Southern Annular Mode using novel peat isotope proxies. PI Dan Charman with Matt Amesbury (Exeter) and investigators from Cambridge and Victoria, NZ.
Amount £245,011 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Title Models to enhance analysis of photosynthesis 
Description models of gas exchange and photosystem fluorescence were combined to allow easy access for non-specialists to analyse data from readliy available equipment but informed by the latest theoretical understanding of fundamental science 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - in vitro 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This will increase the rigour of studies on plants subject to molecular transformation and evaluation of traits 
 
Description Ad hoc discussions with public during field work 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussions with members of the public, wardens etc about the work that we are doing as we carry out field work at publically accessible sites across East Anglia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Blog interview with JR about research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview about work with JR for blog aimed at a combination of science and art
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.wearestardust.uk/blogs/news/we-are-stardust-interview-with-botanist-dr-jessica-royles
 
Description Botanic Garden Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Description of research and collaboration with CU botanic garden for the Garden Newsletter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cambridge Conference on Global Food Security 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Conference was held on 23-24 June 2016 co-hosted by Cambridge Global Food Security, the Centre of Development Studies, and Cambridge's conservation networks: the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and Forum, and the University of Cambridge Conservation and Research Initiative. Over 225 people took part, gathering in the newly opened David Attenborough Building, home to the Cambridge Conservation Campus.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.globalfood.cam.ac.uk/symposia/2016
 
Description Discussions during fieldwork 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Ad hoc encounters with the general public whilst carrying out field work: answering their questions and discussion of the aims, background and potenential outcome of the work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Employing summer students 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Employment of a summer student, a student at the University of Cambridge, to participate in research and outreach activities during the summer vacation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018
URL http://data.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/moss_ecophysiology/
 
Description Graduate Symposium in Vienna "MInd the App" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Student Symposium "Mind the App"
"Applications that bridge biology and technology"; organized by Phd-students of the Vienna Biocenter.
"This is an interdisciplinary conference involving 15 international scientists who have unconventionally applied technology to basic research or conceived an innovative application from a scientific finding. Topics include "Molecular Toolbox", "Bioengineering Medicine", "Manipulating the Code" and "Shaping Ecosystems"."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://bme.htu.at/2016/09/14/student-symposium-mind-the-app/
 
Description Graduate seminar on food security 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact discussion on impacts of climate change on food security
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Institute for Continuing Education presentation: Mosses on a roll as climate change gather pace 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Study at one of the world's leading universities this summer. Every July and August our International Summer Programmes offer adults of all ages and backgrounds an intensive learning experience with the opportunity to live in some of Cambridge's most beautiful Colleges. Over 175 courses and seminars, plus 200 supplementary lectures make up our open-access programmes: summer science programme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Introduction Session - CCfCS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Introduction session to the Cambridge Centre for Climate Science: outlining the climate science related work underway in the Department of Plant Sciences - included section on this NERC funded project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.climatescience.cam.ac.uk/
 
Description Invited seminar at a major international conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation gave a major overview of plant physiology and ecology in improving sustainable crop productivity
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.europlantbiology2018.org/
 
Description Leader of Debate on Climate and Sustainability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Led question-time panel and chaired discussion on actions associated with Food Security and Climate Change
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.cambridgeclimateforum.org/
 
Description Masterclass on Global Food Security for Year 12 and 13 pupils 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 30 pupils attended for a school visit to the Sainsbury Laboratory, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and the school reported increased interest in related subject areas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL http://www.saps.org.uk/secondary
 
Description Open Day and School visits hosted for Biological and Plant Sciences 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School visits, in association with Clare College and/of the University Open Days and Dept of Plant Sciences, included a Biological Sciences Taster Day, three full open days (July/September and hosting individual year groups (year 8/9, 10/11 or 12) to talk about plant processes and food security, impact of climate change, as well as admissions procedures
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
URL http://www.clare.cam.ac.uk/Information-for-Schools/
 
Description Participate in broadcast on local national and international radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact participation in interviews and live broadcasts to promote plant and crop sciences to the wider community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Participation in Cambridge Forum for Sustainability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Forum aims to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversations about some of the great sustainability challenges the world faces in the future and the research pathways which will help to prepare for and address those challenges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
URL http://www.cfse.cam.ac.uk/
 
Description Participation in popular science radio programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Science week Debate on plant processes attended by schoolchildren, increasing interest in subject areas
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.thenakedscientists.com/
 
Description Policy workshop: Monitoring the global food system: building trust and resilience for UK citizens and consumers. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A CSaP (Centre for Science and Policy ) workshop funded through the Global Food Security Interdisciplinary Research Centre (co-Chair H Griffiths) which raised key questions regarding resilience in the food system and how policy should be developed to cope with future challenges
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://www.csap.cam.ac.uk/events/past/?category=1
 
Description Presentation at 200th Anniversary of the National Herbarium of Trinidad, attended by President of Trinidad and Tobago and University of West Indies senior administrators and staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited seminar to demonstrate the importance of collections such as Herbaria to support fundamental crop science and ecological research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation to British Bryological Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Invited presentation "From Antarctica to East Anglia: using mosses as environmental indicators" to the Annual General Meeting of the British Bryological Society: Approx 60 people in audience. Questions followed, including discussion of potential collaboration, and raised awareness of our work to many of the key bryologists in the country
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/meetings/forthcoming.htm#17d
 
Description Presentation to agricultural industrial reps 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Brief presentation about research and techniques followed by networking with representatives from business and industry
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentations to undergraduate societies and organisations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Several talks and panel discussions chaired as part of their activities which led to media interest and stimulated debate within and between participants and external speakers

Raised awareness of the fundamental importance of plants to society in general
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016
URL http://camtriplehelix.com/
 
Description Project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Undergraduate summer student developed website to explain project and incorporate blog about ongoing work. Linked to department website, and sent to sites that we are working
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://data.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/moss_ecophysiology/
 
Description Science on Sundays Botanic Garden talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Science on Sundays
Science on Sundays is a programme of informal, monthly drop-in plant science talks here at the Botanic Garden which run for six months of the year, from March to August.

Since its foundation, Cambridge University Botanic Garden has been a focus and stimulus for science in the University. This series of short science talks, curated by Professor Beverley Glover, Director of the Garden, aims to bring the latest discoveries in plant science to a wider audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk/Botanic/Page.aspx?p=27&ix=3035&pid=2719&prcid=4&ppid=2719
 
Description Seminar on food security, Shanghai, China: Food security,  nutrition and health 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact "Food security occurs when all people are able to access enough safe and nutritious food to meet their requirements for a healthy life, in ways the planet can sustain into the future".
Crop Science and Food security: there is a productivity, waste and distribution "trilemma"
How should we link the technologies for crop production and distribution to environmental resilience and consumer health and nutrition?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Summer student poster afternoon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Poster prepared by summer student working on the project to show to other summer students and faculty working in the department
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Summer student poster afternoon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Summer student working on the project took part in afternoon workshop to present poster and discuss project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://data.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/moss_ecophysiology/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/S-Young-poster.pdf
 
Description Talk to Parent and baby group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bried talk about Antarctic and moss related work to a group of around 40 parents and babies, open to the public in Ely
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.facebook.com/mummasandmore/
 
Description Undergraduate Training through Summer Vacation Studentships 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact In previous years, we have used Departmental funds to support summer studentships, where undergraduate students can be involved directly in ongoing research programmes; for the BBSRC PSIL Enhancing Photosynthesis, students have been directly involved in laboratory work in terms of developing techniques, analysing images and successively creating the CAPP website (http://www.globalfood.cam.ac.uk/) and associated teaching resources. Students specifically benefitting from this support have included: Rachel Purdon (2011), Jessica Finch and Richard Perez-Storey (2012), Oliver Terrett and Ninhghui Shi (2013) and Charlie Whittaker (Rank Prize Fund award, 2014); Other students have been working on climate change and moss-lichen interactions in Antarctica

The website and associated eductional resources and Rubisco game have attracted considerable attention and hits; many of the students have been attracted into studying plant science in Final Year and have graduated with excellent degrees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011
URL http://cambridgecapp.wordpress.com/
 
Description University Open Days 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The open days are large-scale events organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office in conjunction with the University Colleges and departments.
Cambridge Open Days are for Year 12 students (or equivalent) and mature applicants who are considering making an application in October 2017 for entry in October 2018 (or deferred entry in October 2019).
Attendees will find out what the University and Colleges have to offer, attend presentations on courses, the application process, student support, finance, and careers. They will have the opportunity to talk to academic staff from the departments and Colleges, and undergraduate students will also be on hand to talk to about student life at Cambridge.

My participation has encouraged students to apply to Cambridge- direct feedback
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2007,2008,2009,2010
URL http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/events/cambridge-open-day
 
Description appearance on Naked Scientist panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact participation in live debate on radio
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.thenakedscientists.com/
 
Description meet with representatives of eminent society or government ministry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meet CSaP visiting Policy Fellow from Royal Society and BEIS and discuss food security issues in relation to global food security and engagement with the public
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019