1 March 2007 Survival of Four Mosses from West Virginia After Two Hours in the Stratosphere
Susan Moyle Studlar, Christopher Eddy, James Spencer
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Four mosses collected in West Virginia (Sphagnum magellanicum, S. fallax, S. girgensohnii, and A. angustatum) were sent into the stratosphere in April 2006, in or on a foam box tied to a weather balloon. Moist shoots of the three Sphagnum species were placed both inside the box (normal conditions: 1 atmosphere pressure, temperatures between 25 and 30° C) and on the outside of the box (stratospheric conditions, with temperatures as low as -30° C). Two samples of dry shoots were also exposed to the stratosphere: S. fallax (two capitula from a WVA herbarium specimen) and A. angustatum (local collection with capsules). The balloon ride lasted about four hours, with two hours in the stratosphere. Mosses were tested for viability by culturing shoots (all species) or spores (Atrichum only) in the laboratory for 28 days. All four mosses survived the ride inside the box, as expected. Three of the four mosses (all except S. girgensohnii) survived exposure to the stratosphere in that they showed at least initial stages of regeneration (secondary protonemata and juvenile shoots). Fragments from two (of three) peat mosses exposure to the stratosphere produced bright green thalloid protonemata and juvenile shoots on stems and branches. Our data suggest that three of the four tested mosses would survive strong updrafts during wind dispersal in nature, which would help explain their broad distributions.

Susan Moyle Studlar, Christopher Eddy, and James Spencer "Survival of Four Mosses from West Virginia After Two Hours in the Stratosphere," Evansia 24(1), 17-21, (1 March 2007). https://doi.org/10.1639/0747-9859-24.1.17
Published: 1 March 2007
Atrichum angustatum
Sphagnum fallax
Sphagnum girgensohnii
Sphagnum magellanicum
weather balloon
wind dispersal
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