Each Christmas season, the abundance of terrestrial bryophytes in the Abies-dominated forests of the Sierra Chincua, part of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, attracts moss gatherers. Bryophyte mats are harvested as ornamentals, packed, and sold at the central auction of Mexico City. In 1996, we followed a group of about 10 family members in this activity and documented economic and ecological aspects. During the season they removed in total nearly 50 tons of fresh weight of bryophytes from the forest floor that was sold for approximately $3,500 USD, leaving behind a mosaic of gaps of bare soil in the mossy layer. The average gap size was 0.48 m2 and extraction intensity varied between 0.5 and 4.1% of the total surface area (2.14% on average). In addition, over 11,000 Abies seedlings were unintentionally removed. We are conceive that the Mexican norm for bryophyte harvesting is not in line with current practices and we recommend the inclusion of guidelines for patch size, and that harvesters pay attention to accidental removal of tree seedlings.
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Vol. 104 • No. 4