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The biology of rarity: Conservation of bryophytes and lichens

Pressel, Silvia [1], Duckett, Jeffrey G. [1].

A Novel Approach to Bryophyte Conservation: the In-vitro Strategy.

In-vitro cultivation is proving an invaluable tool in the conservation of rare and/or endangered bryophytes, especially of those taxa growing exclusively in ephemeral and/or threatened habitats. It is essential in minimizing sampling from wild populations; moss material can in fact be ‘bulked up’ over relatively short periods of time thus providing readily available material for a variety of applications. Although the ideal inocula for initiating in-vitro cultures are ripe spores from undehisced capsules, not least because of their suitability for surface-sterilization, a variety of tissues can be used, ranging from stems, leaves, vegetative diaspores and fragments of protonema to material from herbarium specimens several years old, particularly tubers and spores. Independently from the starting material, almost invariably the first structures to regenerate are protonemata which are in most cases fast growing and easy to subculture. Because they can be propagated almost indefinitely, axenic cultures per se represent an invaluable ‘databank’ of rare bryophyte material: an insurance for the survival of rare and endangered taxa, should they become extinct in the wild. Cryopreservation as well as molecular studies of rare species all require axenically-grown material and, via in-vitro culturing, sufficient rare material can be obtained for physiological studies e.g. desiccation biology, as well as for reintroduction trials into the wild. To the latter end establishment of in-vitro cultures onto fragments of parent substratum has been successfully accomplished for the endangered Zygodon gracilis and for the critically endangered Didymodon glaucus and Seligeria carniolica. Furthermore in-vitro culturing offers the unique opportunity to study the juvenile stages of moss development and thus to assess the significance of juvenile characters in systematics and phylogeny as well as providing new insights into their reproductive biology.

1 - Queen Mary, University of London, School of Biological Sciences, London, E1 4NS, UK

axenic cultures
bryophyte conservation
moss protonemata.

Presentation Type: Symposium
Session: 15-3
Location: Ballroom 3 (Cliff Lodge)
Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Time: 2:00 PM
Abstract ID:548

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