Differentiating moss from higher plants is critical in studying the carbon cycle of the boreal biome

W. Yuan, S. Liu, W. Dong, S. Zhao, J. Chen, W. Xu, X. Li, A. Barr, T.A. Black, E.J. Moors, M.K. van der Molen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The satellite-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), which is used for estimating gross primary production (GPP), often includes contributions from both mosses and vascular plants in boreal ecosystems. For the same NDVI, moss can generate only about one-third of the GPP that vascular plants can because of its much lower photosynthetic capacity. Here, based on eddy covariance measurements, we show that the difference in photosynthetic capacity between these two plant functional types has never been explicitly included when estimating regional GPP in the boreal region, resulting in a substantial overestimation. The magnitude of this overestimation could have important implications regarding a change from a current carbon sink to a carbon source in the boreal region. Moss abundance, associated with ecosystem disturbances, needs to be mapped and incorporated into GPP estimates in order to adequately assess the role of the boreal region in the global carbon cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4270
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • light-use efficiency
  • net primary production
  • leaf-area
  • terrestrial biosphere
  • forest ecosystem
  • climate-change
  • absorbed par
  • co2 flux
  • satellite
  • productivity

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