Economics and Ecology of Bryophytes:

Economics ( source:

Bryophytes, believe it or not , have and continue to be used by us for various purposes:

  • Wrapping and wall paper was made from Sphagnum in the early 1900's
  • More recently, sphagnum has been used as construction material:
    Peatcrete, a mixture of Sphagnum, Portland cement and water;
  • * Commonly used in mixtures of soil to loosen compact soils and increase water-holding capacity.
  • Because of its absorbent and antiseptic properties it was used for dressings during World War I, to make pillows for resting of wounded members for soldiers transported to hospitals from battlefields, and recently as filling material for sanitary napkins.
  • In Japan, mosses have traditionally been used as base cover for bonsai, in small terraria, in miniature landscapes and in the designs of the famous japanese gardens.
  • In folk medicine, particularly in China where ca. 40 species are used in various remedies. Mosses have been used to treat cardiovascular ;;;;, nervous postration, in poultice to treat skin rashes, burns, infections and bites. A chemical analysis of the moss Rhodobryum giganteum indicates that it contains volatile oils, lactones and amino acids. An extract of this moss tested on white mice increased by 30% the rate of blood flow in the aorta (Wu 1982 in Ando & Matsuo 1984).
  • Accumulated beds of peat are dried out and used as a fossil fuel. peat fires. In the scotch industry, this peaty fuel gives some of the the scotches their 'peaty' taste, an acquired taste.

    Ecological significance

  • In the tropical rainforest, 'moss balls' form in the higher elevations. Here they can absorb great quantities of rain and release water slowly into the atmosphere or ground. They also, along with the moisture, release quantities of ions i.e. Ca+. These balls support numbers of invertebrates and smaller organisms. Bascially these layers have created a second 'ground' or terra high in the tropical canopy... a world recently discovered with walkways and ladders that span the canopy.

  • In wetlands such as boglands and swamps.... bryophytes absorb great quantities of water and release organic acids which decrease decomposition rates. This accumulation of biomass over thousands of years forms ecosystems such as the Okeefenokee Swamp, the bogs we find thoughout Canada, Northern US and across the oceans.


Life cycles and features of the Bryophytes

The mosses

The liverworts

The hornwsorts

Economic and ecological roles of the bryophytes

Differences between the mosses and liverwort

Return to introductory Bryophyte page