News from IAB

The mission of the International Association of Bryologists (IAB), as a society, is to strengthen bryology by encouraging interactions among all persons interested in byophytes.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Bryophyte Flora of Thailand: Initiatives

             The Flora of Thailand Project has been documenting the diversity of vascular plants in Thailand since 1963 and is producing a large volume of taxonomic knowledge that greatly facilitates other research in plant sciences in Thailand. The project has assigned the tasks of taxonomic treatments of all Thai plants, including ferns, lycophytes, and seed plants. To no one’s surprise, the Flora of Thailand had no plan to include bryophytes, and that has to be changed.

Much like the rest of land plants, bryophytes have been documented along with the first official survey of Thai Flora in “Flora of Koh Chang”  between 1899 and 1900 when Danish botanist Johannes Schmidt collected numerous bryophytes in the Koh Chang Island (Brotherus 1901; Stephani 1902). During this time, several European botanists contributed to the floristic checklist of Thai Bryophytes. Carl Hosseus, a German botanist, collected bryophytes in northern and northwestern Thailand between 1904 and 1905 (Brotherus 1911; Stephani 1911). Arthur Francis George Kerr, an Irish doctor and botanist, also collected a large number of specimens of bryophytes throughout the country (Larsen 1979). Dixon (1924, 1926, 1929, 1932, 1935) reported about 300 species of mosses from Thailand. During this time, very little was reported on liverworts with exceptions of Staphani (1911) and Giesy and Richards (1959).

From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, numerous joint botanical expeditions were undertaken by western and Japanese botanists with Thai counterparts. Several Thai-Danish expeditions were carried out between 1958 and 1970 (Larsen 1979). Some of their collections of mosses were studied by Hansen (1961) and Noguchi (1972). The remaining unidentified moss collections (ca. 7,000 specimens) were recently studied at the Missouri Botanical Garden (MO) and become a primary source for compiling the present checklist of mosses by Si He

The first Thai bryologist was Obchant Thaithong. She collaborated with Sinske Hattori and Naofumi Kitagawa (Japan) in the identification of the liverwort specimens collected in Thailand during 1957-1977 through botanical expeditions with Kyoto University, Rijks herbarium, Leiden, and Aarhus University (Hattori et al. 1977). In the past thirty years, most of the work done by Thai bryologists have focused on the bryophytes of particular areas within the country (Sukkharak and Chantanaorrapint 2014). A few checklists of the species list have been produced (Sornsamran and Thaitong 1995, Lai et al. 2018), but the actual taxonomic treatments remained scattered from isolated efforts of individual botanists. 

The situation is changing. In 2012, several young Thai bryologists met at the 6th Botanical Conference of Thailand at Prince of Songkla University. An informal Facebook group was created as a way to communicate among a handful of current bryologists in Thailand. In 2017, a slightly larger group of bryologists met again during the 17th Flora of Thailand Conference and here was the beginning of the formalized effort to publish taxonomic treatments of bryophytes in Thailand. Later in 2017, we submitted the proposal to the Editorial Board of Flora of Thailand to include bryophytes in the project, and the Board approved the idea of “Flora of Thailand Series - Bryophytes”. The Board has since then invited Chris Cargill and Si He to serve as editorial board members for bryophytes.

Our first meeting of Thai bryologists at the 6th Botanical Conference of Thailand in 2012
(Photo Credit: Phiangphak Sukkharak)

Thai bryologists at the 17th Flora of Thailand Conference in 2017 (Photo Credit: Phiangphak Sukkharak)

Our core group members include Sahut Chantanaorrapint (Prince of Songkla University), Phiangphak Sukkharak (Burapha University), and Ekaphan Kraichak (Kasetsart University). We have been working together to coordinate the efforts on taxonomic revisions of Thai bryophytes by compiling a list of taxa to be treated and assigning them to respective experts of the group within the country. By participating in the Flora of Thailand through publications and training of younger generations of botanists, we are hoping to accelerate the taxonomic treatments of Thai bryophytes, as well as to increase awareness of this understudied, yet important group of plants.

Collecting trip for Bryology Class and some beautiful Riccardia and Fissidens  (Photo Credit: Patsakorn Tiwutanon)

Originally, we have planned 8 volumes of the flora to accommodate about 870 species of mosses, 512 species of liverworts, and 24 species of hornworts in the printed book format. However, the finance of printing this large collection of work becomes difficult, as we are currently unable to secure the grants to produce the volume. We have instead refocused our effort on publishing our assigned treatments in various botanical journals. These works will be compiled into the planned printed volume when the funding is available. In the meanwhile, we are working to maintain our network through training of young bryologists and have students and other interested researchers participate in the group of their interests. 

The progress of completing Bryophyte Flora of Thailand might be slow, but we are hopeful that this is a step into the right direction of making bryophytes as a part of the botanical landscape in Thailand and elsewhere. If you are interested in contributing to our Bryophyte Flora of Thailand project, please feel free to contact us. We cannot certainly complete this herculean task without helps from the international bryological community, but we will keep doing what we can to make bryology alive and well in Thailand.

Bier Ekaphan Kraichak

Kasetsart University

Bangkok, Thailand


BROTHERUS V.F., 1901 — Bryales. In: Schmidt J. (ed.), Flora of Koh Chang, part III. Botanisk tidsskrift 24: 115-125.

BROTHERUS V.F., 1911 — Musci. In: Hosseus CC. (ed.), Die Botanischen Ergebnisse meiner Expedition nach Siam. Beihefte zum botanischen centralblatt 28: 362-364.

DIXON H.N., 1924 — New species of mosses from the Malay Peninsula. Bulletin of the Torrey botanical club 51: 225-259.

DIXON H.N., 1926 — A list of mosses of the Malay Peninsula. The gardens’ bulletin, straits settlement 4: 1-46.

DIXON H.N., 1929 — Mosses of Kaw Tao. Journal of the Siam society. Natural history supplement 8: 19-21.

DIXON H.N., 1932 — On the moss flora of Siam. Journal of the Siam society. Natural history supplement 9: 1-51.

DIXON H.N., 1935 — Further contributions to the moss flora of Siam. Journal of the Siam society. Natural history supplement 10: 1-30.LARSEN K., 1979 — Exploration of the flora of Thailand. In: Larsen K. & Holm-Nielsen LB. (eds.), Tropical botany. Academic Press, London, pp. 125-133.

GIESY R.M. & RICHARDS P.W., 1959 — A collection of bryophytes from Thailand (Siam). Transactions of the British bryological society 3: 575-581.

HANSEN B., 1961 — Sphagnaceae. In: Larsen K. (ed.), Studies in the Flora of Thailand. Dansk botanisk arkiv 20: 89-108.

HATTORI S., THAITHONG O. & KITAGAWA N., 1977 — The genus Frullania in Thailand. Journal of the Hattori botanical laboratory 43: 439-457.

LAI M.-J., ZHU R.-L. & CHANTANAORRAPINT S., 2008 — Liverworts and hornwort of Thailand: an updated checklist and bryofloristic accounts. Annales botanici Fennici 45: 321-341.

LARSEN K., 1979 — Exploration of the flora of Thailand. In: Larsen K. & Holm-Nielsen LB. (eds.), Tropical botany. Academic Press, London, pp. 125-133.

NOGUCHI A., 1972 — Mosses of Thailand. Lindbergia 1: 169-183.

SORNSAMRAN R. & THAITHONG O., 1995 – Bryophytes in Thailand. Bangkok, Thailand, Office of Environmental Policy and Planning, 234 p.

STEPHANI F., 1902 — Hepaticae. In: Schmidt J. (ed.), Flora of Koh Chang, part V. Botanisk tidsskrift 24: 277-280.

STEPHANI F., 1911 — Hepaticae. In: Hosseus C.C., Die Botanischen Ergebnisse meiner Expedition nach Siam. Beihefte zum botanischen centralblatt 28: 362.

SUKKHARAK P. & CHANTANAORRAPINT S. 2014 — Bryophyte Studies in Thailand: Past, Present, and Future. Cryptogamie, Bryologie 35: 5-17.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Why study moss?


Wild green wall. Punta Arenas, Chile

On the few occasions someone has pointed a microphone at me and asked why I 'chose to study moss', I've found myself struggling to respond. I imagine they expect a heroic answer, like when people say they wanted to be an astronaut since a child, or experienced an epiphany and felt drawn to a life on stage!

 Now that I stop to think about it, I stumbled upon moss possibly in much the same way others have found themselves studying this tiny – but important and fascinating – plant.

 My path took a mossy turn as I contemplated a PhD in Australia after an undergraduate degree in biology, topped by an Honours project in conservation genetics on a rare native plant. To assess potential PhD projects, I drew up a list of criteria that included, amongst others, developing new skills; a friendly lab or research group; and potential for an experimental approach.

 I didn't really mind what taxa it was, but I happily settled on a moss project that fit the bill – tweaking and nipping it until it was my own. The starting point was the potential for mossy biocrusts on green roofs, but I felt not enough was known about how moss survives more generally in the urban environment, so I back-pedalled a little. City life involves changes in light, hydrology, pollution and substrate. How do these effect the biodiversity of moss? Now that I'm firmly focused on moss, there are many reasons I enjoy studying it.

My colleague, Flavia Ferrari from Brazil keeps her distance from the wild life while recording moss communities on King George Island

 I like the way moss makes me think about concepts like scale, water relations and surviving stresses. The fact it is so small, and its leaves just one cell thick, means it can rely on the process of diffusion to obtain water and minerals. This in turn affects where it thrives - particularly in the urban environment where it can exploit small niches like pavement cracks, dimples in road surfaces or skeletal soils. Rhizoids suffice where larger plants require the vascular tissues of roots.

 Desiccation tolerance - described as the ability to dry without dying – is surely one of the most amazing qualities of bryophytes, found in different degrees among these plants. It involves a carefully choreographed sequence of events, where plant sugars create glass-like coverings that protect macromolecules like DNA or proteins, which would otherwise crack and crumble in a totally dry state. Desiccation tolerance was associated with those first steps of land colonisation by plants, adding an evolutionary note whenever I take a hand lens to tuft of moss and watch it rehydrate. I never tire of seeing twisted dried leaves unfurl, sighing open with just a spray of water.

 Like other bryophytes, mosses are often overlooked. But once you notice them, they draw you in, then, with newly found moss-attuned vision, you realise that moss is a member of many ecosystems, whether woodland, urban or even beachside.  Now that I study moss, I have an eye out for it everywhere I go. Is that moss I see growing in this playground on plastic turf? Yes - moss reminds us that wild processes occur all around us, whether we take notice or not. On the cusp of micro and macro, it has the ability to alter your perception of the world.

After the fire. Australia

When I get asked what I'm doing when I'm out and about in the suburbs, it's nice to be able to share some basic facts about moss. Usually, people think of it as only found in moist habitats, so they are surprised to learn that desert mosses inhabit our city pavements. But as members of the IAB will be well aware, moss is both ubiquitous and picky. Ubiquitous in that there are thousands of species (10 000 at least according to the Tree of Life Web Project) and these grow in an astonishing variety of places: among other biocrust organisms (such as lichen, fungi, bacteria) in deserts; on trees in rainforests and on ground that is newly exposed, as glaciers retreat in Antarctica. But picky too, in that substrate – the kind of rock, for instance – also largely dictates whether a particular species can grow there. For example, I'm looking at moss on an urban gradient on three substrates - pavement cracks, asphalt dimples (such as car park edges) and soil in grassy green spaces. The species vary according to substrate (albeit with a few that have wide ranges and can tolerate all three). But whether it's the CBD or Antarctica, where moss grows depends on a combination of factors including microclimate (the humidity, temperature and so on, at the scale it matters to a moss) and microtopography.

 Science is my second career (my first career focus was publishing) and one of the reasons I turned back to biology was to go into the field and experience places I otherwise would not have the opportunity to visit. Moss, albeit small, has not disappointed on this front. Travelling for conferences has allowed me to witness the micro 'mountains' of biocrusts in Utah, urban moss and night markets in Shenzhen, and the wonderful IAB/iMOSS conference in Madrid's Royal Botanic Garden last year (hot on the heels of the SEB in Seville). Visiting the Prado was a highlight. Little moss there, it's true, but Goya's May 3rd moved me to tears. The field trip to the Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares provided a special opportunity to see numerous dry adapted moss species in the wild. Early last year, in February 2020, moss took me camping in Antarctica, and I delivered the moss back to Australia in the form of samples from sites on King George Island glacier retreat. The samples now sit in a freezer in Wollongong, awaiting analysis for C13, which will show what conditions were like as it grew, and possibly C14 for dating purposes.

 Currently, however, my research is taking me out into the suburbs of Wollongong, a coastal city in NSW, where watching closely for moss also makes me appreciate neighbourhoods I wouldn't usually visit, whether it's the expansive beaches of Windang in the south, or the bourek shops in the migrant suburb of Cringila.

 So next time I'm asked, ‘why do you study moss?’ I now have a ready answer: for its rich research potential; because it's thought-provoking philosophically; and because it leads me to places near and far.

The surprising colours of urban moss

Written by Alison Haynes

PhD Candidate (University of Wollongong), Australia



Friday, October 30, 2020

Stomata are not that important… for bryophytes

Stomata of bryophytes are only present in the sporophyte generation of mosses and hornworts; liverworts do not have stomata. These structures are morphologically similar to stomata in the rest of land plants, consisting of a pair of guard cells surrounding a pore. However, the role of stomata in bryophytes has been questioned since guard cells do not close the pore in hornworts and have limited movement in mosses. 

Octoblepharum capsule and stoma

Sporophytes may use stomata in gas exchange for photosynthesis to partially support itself, but bryophyte stomata are also involved in drying and dehiscence of the capsule. The best example is the pseudostomata of Sphagnum that do not form a pore and are the first cells to dry, changing the shape of the capsule to release the spores. This role in drying the capsule to gradually release spores can explain why stomata are mostly located at the base of the capsule, or why some mosses have very few or no stomata at all.

Stomata of tracheophytes are essential for sustaining their lifestyle and the absence of stomata is recorded only in aquatic plants. This is not the case for bryophytes and taking into account the distinct function of bryophyte stomata, the widespread records of mosses that do not have stomata is not surprising. In our recent study (Renzaglia et al. 2020), we found that stomata are absent in species of 74 genera (40 families!) that accounts for over 60 independent losses. In terms of development, stomata are relatively easy to lose; interrupting one or several key genes for stomata formation can lead to stomata-less capsules. Unfortunately, not a single nor combination of environmental or phenotypic characters can explain the absence of stomata. Capsules of aquatic or semiaquatic mosses always lack stomata, but this explains very few losses, and reduction of the sporophyte can lead to smaller guard cells and perhaps a reduction in the number of stomata but not complete loss. In the last decade, the study of bryophyte stomata has greatly advanced our understanding of stomata evolution, each study adding a piece to the puzzle, but some of the oldest questions as of why some bryophytes do not have stomata remain unsolved.



Renzaglia, K.S., Browning, W.B. and Merced, A., 2020. With Over 60 Independent Losses, Stomata Are Expendable in Mosses. Frontiers in Plant Science, 11, p.567. doi:10.3389/fpls.2020.00567

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Highlights of IAB IMOSS SEB 2019 Joint Conference

We are happy to share selected contributions from IAB IMOSS SEB 2019, the 2019 International Association of Bryologists (IAB), International Molecular Moss Science Society (iMOSS) and la Sociedad Española de Briología (SEB) joint conference, held in Madrid, Spain, on July 9-12, 2019.

The papers are published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Sciences and listed below:

Enjoy the reading.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Life without sex, the sad story of an emigrant

Nothoceros aenigmaticus,  female patch (US)
Sexual reproduction plays an essential role in species’ survival and maintenance and hence is, not surprisingly widespread across the Tree of Life. However, clonality and other forms of asexual reproduction do also exist, especially in plants. The hornwort Nothoceros aenigmaticus is a good example of a plant reproducing asexually and clonally as its male plants seem to produce non-functional sperm cells. This hornwort is distributed in the Southern Appalachians (SA) (United States), Mexico and in “alpine” regions of tropical South America. Unlike elsewhere in its range, male and female plants in the US are geographically separated by ca. 30 km across rivers and mountains, as they grow on rocks in different watersheds of the Tennessee and Alabama Rivers (SA). Whether male and female populations were geographically isolated to the extent that migration, and sporadic sexual reproduction was completely absent, and hence whether these populations relied always exclusively on asexual propagation was unknown. Resolving this uncertainty is critical to assess the vulnerability of these populations to environmental change.

Southern Appalachians, sampling sites
To confirm the total reproductive isolation, reconstruct its origin, and assess the mode of reproduction of N. aenigmaticus in SA, we analyzed genetic data of more than 250 individuals of the species. Nothoceros aenigmaticus likely immigrated to the US from sexual Mexican ancestors about 600–800,000 years ago. The genomic data confirmed the absolute reproductive isolation between sexes and the absolute genetic isolation among SA populations. Populations from contiguous watersheds share clones, but individuals lack mixed genetic traits, consistent with the lack of sexual reproduction, as is their overall reduced genetic diversity.The SA drainage system is thought to have been remodeled by geological processes during the Pleistocene glaciations, which could have mixed genotypes from contiguous watersheds.  This low overall extant genetic diversity and the extreme sex segregation point out the high vulnerability of N. aenigmaticus to extinction in the SA under major alteration of the habitats.
Special thanks to Paul Davidson for sharing photos of the species.
The link to the paper: 
Alonso-Garcia M, Villarreal JC, McFarland K and Goffinet B (2020). Population Genomics and Phylogeography of a Clonal Bryophyte with Spatially Separated Sexes and Extreme Sex RatiosFront. Plant Sci. 11: 495. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00495.