Journal archives for March 2021

March 01, 2021


The March EcoQuest Challenge is BROWSE BRYOPHYTES

How many Bryophytes can you find by March 31?

Bryophytes are diminutive plants related by a common ancestor to Algae and forming three distinct evolutionary lineages: Liverworts (Division Marchantiophyta), Mosses (Division Bryophyta), and Hornworts (Division Anthocerotophyta). Like other plants, they make their own food from water and carbon dioxide via photosynthesis, but unlike flowering plants, they lack complex vascular tissue and reproduce by spores, not seeds.

Bryophytes are ecologically important as pioneers of barren surfaces. They are often the first to appear after volcanic eruptions, tree falls, floods and ice scour. They can absorb and retain many times their weight in water and help mitigate sudden downpours. They retain water and release it slowly into the environment where it can be used by other organisms. They contribute to nutrient cycling by trapping and absorbing minerals from water and air. They can form crusts with Lichens on old dunes, helping to stabilize the sand and build soil leading to succession by other plants. They provide niches for other organisms, especially tiny invertebrates such as Snow Fleas who are in turn consumed by larger invertebrates and so on up the food chain. Fallen logs first become encrusted with Bryophytes and in time the moist, nutrient-rich carpet may become an incubator for fern spores and seeds of flowering plants. Bryophytes are highly sensitive to small differences in humidity, UV radiation, pollution and characteristics of the underlying surface (substrate). Whether in the city or a primeval forest, dozens of microhabitats may occur in just a few steps. Bryophytes were on earth long before flowering plants and mammals and have evolved survival strategies to ensure they remain long after.

It is estimated that there are 617–637 Bryophyte species in New York State (Finger Lakes Native Plant Society), but there has never been a complete catalog or inventory for the state or City. Your observations will help achieve that goal.

A 10x hand lens and good light are often enough to identify many Bryophytes. However, species distinctions are sometimes made on the basis of cell shape and their arrangement and other microscopic features. For some a microscope and fresh or rehydrated samples are required for confident species identification. A good field guide for our region is Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts, a Field Guide to Common Bryophytes of the Northeast, by Ralph Pope (Comstock Publishing Associates, a division of Cornell University Press, 368 pp. 2016).

See the Guide to the Bryophytes of New York City for more information about the City's Mosses, Liverworts and Hornworts.

Visit the Bryophytes of New York for Bryophyte observations in New York State.

The Finger Lakes Native Plant Society has some general information about Bryophytes in New York State (How many bryophytes are there in New York and are any of them rare?).

Posted on March 01, 2021 20:41 by danielatha danielatha | 1 comment | Leave a comment