Edaphic factors play an important role in determining moss species distribution and establishment, yet relatively few studies of the soil environment of mosses have focused on disturbed soil habitats such as those found next to road edges. Plot ground cover, soil physical, and soil chemical measurements were analyzed for 288 0.5 m2 plots at two distance groupings (near: 0.5 and 2 m and far: 5 and 8 m) from 24 roadside locations across northern New York, central New Hampshire, and central Vermont. Forty-eight species of moss were encountered on 164 of the 288 sample plots with a mean species richness of 2.5 species per plot. Four groups of mosses that act in coordinated ways were established, defined primarily by soil pH, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and aluminum. Within these four groups, species also exhibited a clear distribution preference towards either near or far roadside plots that is loosely based on growth form. Our finding of a group of moss species that are frequently present in the difficult growing environment found in close proximity to roadsides suggests that future studies in moss ecology and physiology could lead to useful insights in plant adaptations to extreme environments, including tolerance of heavy metals, reduced mineral nutrients, and desiccation.
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