While patterns of spore dispersal from single sources at short distances are fairly well known, information about spore rain' from numerous sources and at larger spatial scales is generally lacking. In this study, I sampled spore rain using a novel method consisting of 0.250.5 m2 cotton cloth traps at nine sites in the boreo-nemoral vegetation zone in eastern Sweden during two seasons, using Sphagnum spores as a model. Traps were located in various landscapes (mainland, islands). Additional trapping was done in an arctic area (Svalbard) without spore production. Spore densities were tested against distance from the nearest source and area of sources (open peatlands) within different radii around each site (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 km). The cloth method appeared reliable when accounting for precipitation losses, retaining approximately 2060% of the spores under the recorded amounts of precipitation. Estimated spore densities ranged from 6 million m2 and season within a large area source, via regional deposition of 50 000240 000 spores m2, down to 1000 m2 at Svalbard. Spore rain for all sites was strongly related to distance from the nearest source, but when excluding samples taken within a source peatland, the amount of sources within 200 km was most important. Spores were larger at isolated island sites, indicating that a higher proportion originated from distant, humid areas. Immense amounts of Sphagnum spores are dispersed across regional distances annually in boreal areas, explaining the success of the genus to colonise nutrient poor wetlands. The detectable deposition at Svalbard indicates that about 1% of the regional spore rain has a trans- or intercontinental origin. The regional spore rain, originating from numerous sources in the landscape, is probably valid for most organisms with small diaspores and provides a useful insight in ecology, habitat restoration and conservation planning.
2013. Vol. 36, no 3, 364-373 p.