As a general policy, check the website for event updates before you walk out the door!
It’s time to vote. The positions of President Elect and Treasurer are up. Follow the link…
Register for SO BE FREE by 15 December. It will be in southern Oregon from Saturday to Tuesday 24-27 March 2018.
Jim Shevock will be giving a talk to the Kern County Chapter on 18 January (Thursday) and leading a walk on Saturday 20 January, 2018.
Every three years, CNPS puts on a Conservation Conference. One is coming up from 30 January to 3 February. One of the walks will include bryophytes, as will one of the sessions. Register now…
We’ll be having an open microscope day on Friday 10 November (Veteran’s Day; Armistice Day) at Cal State Northridge, CR 5335, say 9:00-4:00.
Brent Mishler will be giving a talk entitled “Mosses are from Mars, Vascular Plants are from Venus” for the Milo Baker Chapter on 20 February 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Luther Burbank Art and Garden Center, 2050 Yulupa Avenue in Santa Rosa.
Amanda Heinrich will be teaching a 2.5 hour introductory class on bryophytes at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden on Saturday 17 February 2018, 10 am-12:30 pm.
Kerry Heise will be leading a combined bryophyte/lichen walk for the Sanhedrin Chapter at Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve just west of Ukiah in January. Kerry is also setting up monthly bryophyte/lichen identification sessions in Ukiah. More information will be posted on the chapter website soon, and see https://sanhedrin.cnps.org
We had a swell little group for what turned into a three-day workshop in Quincy.
Open microscope days have been a success this summer.
We now have a real bank account! Send us checks so we’ll have something in it: David Hutton (treasurer, Bryophyte Chapter, CNPS); 475 Summit Rd.; Walnut Creek, CA 94598.
The biggest triumph of the quarter was getting Judy Harpel to agree to serve as rare bryophyte chair. Getting our conservation work off the ground will take time, but hold onto your hats.
Frequently asked questions are appended. Do animals eat mosses? What good are bryophytes? Read on…
Featured Photo 1
Neil Uelman writes, “This winter the Palos Verdes Peninsula received replenishing rains after several years of extreme drought and it was an amazing year for bryophytes. This picture was captured along the George F Canyon Nature Trail. A section of the trail was covered in an explosion of Fossombronia longiseta that were producing sporophtyes in great profusion. This was the first time that I have seen so many Fossombronia longiseta along this trail. Such a beautiful liverwort!”
Q: Do animals eat mosses?
Surprisingly few animals eat moss gametophytes. Mosses and liverworts contain secondary compounds that make them unpalatable or even toxic. They are also difficult to digest and have a low nutritive value. Moss sporophytes, on the other hand, are readily consumed by birds and small mammals. Despite the generalization, below are a few examples of animals that do eat mosses.
Mosses have been reported to make up 60% of the diet of pikas of the Columbia River Gorge (Bohannon 2013). However, in order to effectively extract nutrients, the pikas must digest the mosses twice, by pooping them out in the form of a “caecal” which they re-ingest.
Barnacle Geese eat primarily moss, which is the most abundant plant material where they gather to breed. However, the geese prefer the less abundant grasses and dicots which they selectively choose from amongst the mosses, presumably because of higher nutritive value and easier digestability (Soininen et al. 2010)
Wood lemmings also eat primarily mosses, particularly Dicranum and Polytrichum, which they favor over the more common Pleurozium and Hylocomium, apparently because of their higher nitrogen content (Eskelinen 2002).
Some snails and slugs eat moss leaves, capsules, and protonema (Glime 2017). However, leaves appear to have little nutrient value for snails unless ground up into a paste by humans.
Note that “Reindeer Moss,” which reindeer eat in large quantities in winter, is NOT a moss but rather a lichen (Cladonia rangiferina). For more on how various organisms interact with bryophytes, check out Janice Glime’s online Bryophyte Ecology.
Q: What good are bryophytes?
An organism does not need to have a use for humans in order to justify its existence. Having said that, bryophytes play an important role in many ecosystems. In wetter ecosystems, epiphytic bryophytes act as buffers, holding and then slowly releasing water and nutrients that would otherwise be leached away. In drier ecosystems, bryophytes are an important component of the cryptobiotic soil crust, preventing erosion, providing a bed for seed germination, and in some cases fixing nitrogen. In fact, a clump of moss is an ecosystem unto itself, providing habitat, food and shelter for countless organisms. This is perhaps most easily appreciated in the case of Sphagnum, which creates its own macro-ecosystem in the form of bogs.
As for direct human uses, mosses are used in the floral trade, primarily to decorate pots of vascular plants. Unfortunately, much of this is done in a reckless and unsustainable manner by stripping trees of large swaths of bryophytes, thus removing a water and nutrient buffering system and disturbing the forest ecosystem. Sphagnum is also used as potting material and has been used by humans as a source of fuel, wound dressing, diapers and sanitary napkins. At the molecular and cellular level, mosses are being used as a model system for studying desiccation tolerance and may provide important clues for developing crops that are more tolerant of drought.
For a more extensive discussion of human uses of bryophytes, see Glime’s volume 5.