Varela, Z., Aranda, S.C., Estébanez Pérez, B., Medina, N.G. & Boquete, M.T. (2017) The use of cryptogams as an ecological tool for nitrogen deposition biomonitoring in the Iberian Peninsula. Ecosistemas, 26(1), 45-54. DOI: 10.7818/ECOS.2017.26-1.07.
Nitrogen is an important macronutrient for all living organisms. However, the increased nitrogen inputs in natural ecosystems generate diverse problems, such as eutrophication and acidification and changes in communities. The main scope of the present review is to describe the effects of the increase of the anthropogenic reactive nitrogen (N) on communities of cryptogams (bryophytes and lichens), a key component of many ecosystems. We also aim to evaluate the utility of these organisms as biomonitors of the atmospheric deposition of this nutrient and pollutant in the Iberian Peninsula. Cryptogams are sensitive to N increases in the environment, and for this reason they have already been successfully used as bioindicators of N pollution in the Iberian Peninsula. Besides, they accumulate N in their tissues providing information on the surpassing of critical thresholds and on the sources of the deposited N by means of the N isotopic relationship (δ15N). Finally, we review their main morpho-functional traits, their role in the N cycle, how they are affected by the deposition of anthropogenic N, and we also analyse their potential in biomonitoring, especially through a case study in the Iberian Peninsula using terrestrial mosses.