The secret life of bryophytes

The best places to find bryophytes on Flinders Island are the damp gullies and peaks of Mount Strzelecki.

Bryophytes are placed into envelopes and allowed to dry

Lyn Cave looking closely at moss

When you get down close, particularly with a hand lens, you start to see many different species of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) on Flinders Island. In April, Lyn Cave from the Tasmanian Herbarium was part of the Bush Blitz team on expedition to Flinders Island, where she collected many specimens. But before she can determine just how many bryophytes she has found, she will need to spend many painstaking hours identifying them under the microscope.

The best place to find bryophytes on Flinders Island is Mount Strzelecki which has a rich diversity of flora, particularly in the damp gullies on the slopes. Although they can be found in arid regions they are known for loving wet places - Mt Strzelecki’s summit has a rich range of bryophytes because of the moisture generated by the clouds that often shroud its peaks. In fact, the flora at the top of the mountain are a different set of species from those found below.

Bryophytes have a significant role in the ecosystem – during heavy downpours they can quickly absorb many times their dry weight in water, which is then released gradually, allowing other plants to benefit from the rain for a longer period. Bryophytes are also often the first plants to colonise barren surfaces like road cuttings – they prepare these areas for later plants by trapping moisture and windblown organic debris and then contributing to the organic deposits when they die and decay. To learn more about bryophytes, visit the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

The specimens Lyn collected will become part of the Tasmanian Herbarium collections - available for further study and reference.

Mim, Bush Blitz

Bush Blitz is an innovative partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia that is helping fill the gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity within Australia’s national system of conservation reserves.