Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rapid Cultivation of Fire Mosses

My first greenhouse experiment is complete! For this study I was interested in manipulating substrates and soil amendments to optimize the growth of my "fire mosses". Fire mosses colonize burned landscapes after severe forest fires and my research is focused on exploring their potential as a restoration tool. This being my first experiment with these species and in the greenhouse, I decided to try a little bit of everything with a nod toward burned material. Starting with the two most early serial species, Funaria hygrometrica and Bryum argentum, I added dry moss chunks as "inoculum" to an organic, garden topsoil substrate as well as a mixture of sand and coconut coir (which is an alternative to peat moss). These species can be dominant after high severity fire, so I tested soil amendments of ash from a friends stove and charcoal picked up from the local nursery, both of which are plentiful on burned landscapes. I was interested in how well burlap influenced the growth of mosses. If the mosses grew well on the burlap it could assist in harvesting and dispersal of greenhouse grown inoculum onto the landscape

The Experiment: complete with 216 units 
Channing adding "Inoculum" to a unit
In a side experiment I tested how well these mosses grew on the soils I had just collected them from. I thought this would allow me to see how good the greenhouse environment was for growing mosses, as well as, be a good comparison between natural soils and my engineered substrates. One unintended but awesome outcome of my natural soil experiment was...you guessed it, lots of moss! No matter if I had added inoculum or not, Funaria was growing like mad from these soils, likely due to soil propigules left over after sieving out my inoculum.

Funaria (bright green) growing in a unit inoculate with Bryum only (silver green)
These ruderal (or, early successional) species grow very quickly under the right conditions and treatment effects were evident quite early on. Because of this, I decided to monitor my experiment every three weeks to track growth effectively. After 9 weeks some treatments were approaching full coverage which was very exciting to see in such a short time!

Funaria and Bryum Inoculated Unit at Week 1 (Left) and Week 9 (Right)