Effects of bryophyte and lichen cover on permafrost soil temperature at large scale
Abstract. Bryophyte and lichen cover on the forest floor at high latitudes exerts an insulating effect on the ground. In this way, the cover decreases mean annual soil temperature and can protect permafrost soil. Climate change, however, may change bryophyte and lichen cover, with effects on the permafrost state and related carbon balance. It is, therefore, crucial to predict how the bryophyte and lichen cover will react to environmental change at the global scale. To date, current global land surface models contain only empirical representations of the bryophyte and lichen cover, which makes it impractical to predict the future state and function of bryophytes and lichens. For this reason, we integrate a process-based model of bryophyte and lichen growth into the global land surface model JSBACH (Jena Scheme for Biosphere–Atmosphere Coupling in Hamburg). The model simulates bryophyte and lichen cover on upland sites. Wetlands are not included. We take into account the dynamic nature of the thermal properties of the bryophyte and lichen cover and their relation to environmental factors. Subsequently, we compare simulations with and without bryophyte and lichen cover to quantify the insulating effect of the organisms on the soil.
We find an average cooling effect of the bryophyte and lichen cover of 2.7 K on temperature in the topsoil for the region north of 50° N under the current climate. Locally, a cooling of up to 5.7 K may be reached. Moreover, we show that using a simple, empirical representation of the bryophyte and lichen cover without dynamic properties only results in an average cooling of around 0.5 K. This suggests that (a) bryophytes and lichens have a significant impact on soil temperature in high-latitude ecosystems and (b) a process-based description of their thermal properties is necessary for a realistic representation of the cooling effect. The advanced land surface scheme, including a dynamic bryophyte and lichen model, will be the basis for an improved future projection of land–atmosphere heat and carbon exchange.