Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Biological Sciences


Jesse Bellemare


Microbes, Protists, Sphagnum, Peatlands, Ecology, Peat moss, Peat mosses-Ecology-New England, Peat mosses-Microbiology, Peatlands-New England, Amoeba-Ecology-New England, Microorganisms


Sphagnum moss species dominate and create many peatland ecosystems around the globe. It is a ‘foundation species’ and bioengineer as it creates an anoxic and acidic environment through its influence on the water table and via gradual leaching of calcium. There are also many organisms, including microorganisms, which thrive in the environment created by Sphagnum mosses. Some microorganisms, such as testate (shell-building) amoebae, are known to be top predators in these Sphagnum-dominated environments (Jassey et al., 2012). However, the ecological relationships between Sphagnum species and testate amoebae is understudied. Part of the challenge is that the genus Sphagnum includes approximately 250–400 species and identification of Sphagnum species through morphology alone has proven to be difficult, as many of the microscopic differentiating factors often conflict with genotype. DNA analysis through direct sequencing provides a more reliable identification tool. In this study, I sought to identify which species of Sphagnum moss are present at Hawley Bog, and then to compare these data to the diversity of testate amoebae sampled at paired sites where the Sphagnum samples were identified. In addition to exploring links between Sphagnum species and the amoeba community, I also investigated associations between Sphagnum, testate amoebae, and microtopography within the fen and other environmental factors to create a more comprehensive study of this relationship. In a broader scope, such studies of microbe-macrobe interactions can improve conservation of threatened and endangered organisms and ecosystems. Considering ongoing threats from climate change and human land use, it is imperative to study these ecological relationships to better understand and protect critical peatland ecosystems.




71 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 70-71)