Racomitrium heath is a moss-dominated alpine habitat which is widespread and covers extensive areas in oceanic alpine regions. It is important for the rare bird species that it supports, and the ecosystem services it provides, including carbon storage and regulation of water quality.
Alpine habitats such as this one can, however, experience high levels of nitrogen pollution in rainfall and are increasingly affected by climate change. Understanding the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem function in these habitats to global change is vital both to guide their management and to predict future change in ecosystem services.
Racomitrium heath is a moss-dominated alpine ecosystem which is widespread on mountain summits in the UK and the western fringe of Europe. The vegetation is dominated by a single species of moss, Racomitrium lanuginosum, which forms a thick carpet of living and dead shoots over the ground. This moss carpet stores carbon, filters rainfall, and provides a habitat for important mountain bird species including the Dotterel. Racomitrium moss thrives in the cold, damp conditions found on UK mountains, it is adapted to conditions where plant nutrients are naturally very scarce, and it is highly efficient at capturing nutrients such as nitrogen from rainfall.