Ecological And Economic Importance Of Bryophytes
What is Bryophyte?
- The amphibians of the plant kingdom “Bryophyte” are made up of combining two words:
Bryon – Mosses
Phytons – Plants
- The reason behind calling them bryophytes is their survival habits.
- Bryophytes required both soil and water to survive as they live on soil but reproduce in water.
- These plants lack vascular tissue (xylem and phloem) and vegetative structure.
- They are flowerless and don’t produce seeds.
- Bryophytes have three classifications:
i. Hepaticopsida (Liverworts)
ii. Anthocerotopsida (Hornworts)
iii. Bryopsida (Mosses)
Ecological Importance of Bryophytes:
Bryophyte has a great impact on the environment. these are densely distributed all around the world and their water retention ability benefits the other plants as they stored water and conduct it to other plants, this is called a buffer System. Its dense growth worked as a soil binder. Bryophytes also give their contribution to the nutrient cycle. Bryophytes can decompose the rock and can create a favorable environment for growing plants. Bryophytes help in reducing the impact of rain and preventing soil erosion. They worked as a rock builder. Mosses with algae are found in calcium bicarbonate-rich and lake form calcareous (lime) rock-like deposits around these plants. Decomposition of bicarbonate ions can lead to precipitation of insoluble calcium carbonate.
Economical Importance of Bryophytes:
A. Medicinal Uses:
- Bryophytes have many uses in medicine and there is a lot of evidence from ancient times.
- Sphagnum has high absorptive power and antiseptic property due to this it was used for surgical dressing as well as for discharging wounds.
- Marchantia has been used for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis and pain in the liver.
- The extraction of dried sphagnum is used to treat acute haemorrhage and eye infections.
- Sphagnum is the distillate form of peat-tar and was used to treatment of skin disease and peat-tar was also used as an antiseptic.
- Polytrichum was used for kidney and gall bladder stones.
B. In Research:
- Bryophytes have many contributions to genetics like Mosses and Liverworts are used in research.
C. Packing Material:
- For packaging fragile materials like glassware dried mosses were an excellent choice.
- The water retention property of bryophytes makes them a good choice for the trans-shipment of living materials.
D. As Food:
- Animals and birds use mosses as a good source of food.
- Mosses are consumed by the many like, Arctic Bison, and Alpine vertebrates reindeer, caribou, musk ox, arctic geese, lemmings, and rodents. One of the more interesting use is the feeding of mosses to baby pigs. If pigs are born anaemic, the milled Sphagnum feed is ideal for binding the iron and vitamins fed to baby pigs.
E. As Indicator Plant:
- Bryophytes can indicate the acidity and basicity of the soil.
- Polytrichum indicates the acidity of the soil.
- Tortella can indicate lime and bases of the soil.
F. Potential Source for Antioxidants:
- Marchantia paleacea, Marchantia linearis, and Conocephalum conicum are potentially important sources of bioactive materials that can be effective in the prevention of cells from oxidative damage which leads to aging and carcinogenesis.
G. Construction Materials:
- Nordic people used the aquatic moss Fontinalis antipyretica between the chimney and walls to prevent fires. Several mosses are used as chinking (chink – a crack or narrow fissure) materials. Similarly, in Alaska, the chinking of wooden and log cabins is done using bryophytes. The shepherds in the Himalayan highlands also use bryophytes C for chinking.
- In Northern Europe, Sphagnum is stuffed between timber used in houses to deaden the sound. Mosses were also used in making huts by herdsmen in the Alps. Neckera complanata is used for plugging the seams and cracks of boats.
H. Households Uses:
- A layer of Sphagnum is used in hiking boots for cushioning the foot and absorbing moisture and odor. Dry Sphagnum is used in diapers and in cradles to keep babies clean and warm.
- It is also used to make beddings, mattresses, cushions, and pillows by stuffing mosses into coarse linen sacks.
I. Decorative Materials:
Decorative materials are one of the most important economic use of bryophytes like Dicranum scoparium used for forming banks of green, in-shop window displays, Rhytidiadelphus loreus as green carpets, and Hylocomium splendens (dyed) for decorating women’s hats.
J. Peat Formation:
- Peat formation is a slow process because it’s a result of compression and carbonization of vegetative bogs which are partially decomposed.
- Peat formation can be used as fuel, coal, ethyl alcohol, ammonia, dye, paraffin, etc.