Biodiversity Studies of Fiji Cryptogams (Ferns, bryophytes and lichens)


Summary of project: Conservation International identified all the islands of Micronesia and Polynesia, including the islands of Fiji, as one of the thirty-five biodiversity hotspots in the world, and is referred to as the Polynesia-Micronesia hotspot. Alarmingly, Conservation International recognized this hotspot as the epicenter of the current global extinction crisis. A international team of collaborators, led by Matt von Konrat, are undertaking biodiversity studies of a group of plants commonly called bryophytes and a group of organisms called lichens. Only scant data exist for both groups of organisms compared to many animal and seed plant groups of the region. Both bryophytes and lichens are considered to beof great biological and ecological significance. Significantly, the results of this project and the proposed framework will serve as model for bryophyte and lichen survey work in other islands of the South Pacific, help to develop local scientific expertise, and greatly facilitate studies of these organisms beyond taxonomy and biodiversity, such as their application to conservation.

Federico Pardo (Web and Media Producer, Field Museum) and Christopher O'Brien (Christopher O'Brien Media) produced and edited a video that outlines current research in Fiji. See video here

The Ecological Importance of Early Land Plants (Bryophytes) and Lichens: Bryophytes and lichens play a major ecological role. Both groups form an important and conspicuous component of the vegetation in many regions of the world, including the Pacific islands. The small size of these organisms enables them to respond rapidly to environmental and ecological change offering them great utility in conservation science. For example, bryophytes and lichens play a significant role in the global carbon budget and CO2 exchange, plant succession, and nutrient cycling. As such, they have been used as indicators of past climate change, to validate climate models, and as early indicators of global warming. 

Fieldwork: To date, three field trips have been carried out since 2006. Seed money, kindly provided from the Women's Board Field Dreams program in 2006, supported pilot studies in Viti Levu and Venua Levu. The National Geographic Exploration Committee supported field work in Viti Levu and Tomanivi in 2008. Recently, in 2011 field work was carried out in Viti Levu and Kadavu, which was supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (Conservation International), the Warwick Foundation, and an anonymous donor. See here - a blog by Leon Perrie about the latest trip.

Participants: 17 individuals are currently participating, representing nine instiutions from seven countries have participated in fieldwork since 2006. Field work has also had valauble support from local guides and collaborators from the University of the South Pacific, which was critical to many field excursions.

The project is spearheaded by Matt von Konrat (The Field Museum, Chicago, U.S.A.).

Participants include:

  • John Braggins (Auckland War Memorial Museum)                           
  • Laura Briscoe (The Field Museum, Chicago, U.S.A.)
  • Elizabeth Brown (Royal Botancial Gardens, Sydney, Australia)
  • Patrick Brownsey (Te Papa Museum, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand)
  • Allan Fife (Landcare Research, Lincoln, Aotearoa/New Zealand)
  • Senilolia Heilala (University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji)
  • Thorsten Lumbsch (The Field Museum, Chicago, U.S.A.)
  • Alivereti Naikatini (University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji)
  • Khwanruan Papong (Mahasarakham University, Khamrieng, Thailand)
  • Leon Perrie (Te Papa Museum, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand)
  • Tamás Pócs (Eszterházy College, Eger, Hungary)
  • Matt Renner (Royal Botancial Gardens, Sydney, Australia)
  • Andrea Sass (Eszterházy College, Eger, Hungary)
  • Lars Söderström (Norway)
  • Mereia Tabua (University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji)
  • Marika Tuiwawa (University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji) 


Konrat, Matt von, Naikatini, Alifereti, Tuiwawa, M, Söderström, Lars, Fife, Allan J., Renner, Matthew A., Brownsey, P. J., Perrie, Leon, Hagborg, Anders, Pócs, Tamas, Lumbsch, H.T., Braggins, John E., Séneca, Ana and Brown, Elizabeth A. (2011) A brief history of the cryptogams of Fiji and prospects for the future. Telopea 13(3) : 361-374. Full Article pdf (539.6KB)

Lumbsch, H.T., Lücking, Robert, Divakar, Pradeep, Konrat, Matt von and Naikatini, Alifereti (2011) New records of lichen-forming fungi from Fiji. Telopea 13(3) : 375-404. Full Article pdf (4MB)

Söderström, Lars, Hagborg, Anders, Pócs, Tamas, Sass-Gyarmati, Andrea, Brown, Elizabeth A., Konrat, Matt von and Renner, Matthew A. (2011) Checklist of hornworts and liverworts of Fiji. Telopea 13(3) : 405-454. Full Article pdf (508.1KB)

Pócs, Tamas, Sass-Gyarmati, Andrea, Naikatini, Alifereti, Tuiwawa, M, Braggins, John E., Pócs, Sarolta and Konrat, Matt von (2011) New liverwort (Marchantiophyta) records for the Fiji Islands. Telopea 13(3) : 455-494. Full Article pdf (1.8MB)

Fife, Allan J. and Naikatini, Alifereti (2011) Significant records of Fijian mosses. Telopea 13(3): 495-502. Full Article pdf (333.2KB)

Séneca, Ana and Söderström, Lars (2011) Sphagnum of the Pacific - a checklist. Telopea 13(3) : 503-511. Full Article pdf (530.2KB)

Brownsey, P. J. and Perrie, Leon (2011) A revised checklist of Fijian ferns and lycophytes. Telopea 13(3) : 513-562. Full Article pdf (1.8MB)

Renner, Matthew A. (2011) New records, range extensions and descriptions for some unfamiliar Australian Lejeuneaceae (Jungermanniopsida). Telopea 13(3) : 563-576. Full Article pdf (966.3KB)

Acknowledgements: Financial support from multiple agencia and individuals is gratefully acknowledged, including the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (Grant No. 8247-07), GBIF Seed Money Award No. 2007/41, the Field Museum Women's Board Field Dreams program, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (Conservation International), Warwick Foundation, the New Zealand Agency for International Development, and an anonymous donor. Valuable assistance, guidance, and logistical support throughout the project has been provided by the Suva Herbarium, and numerous local guides. UPDATE 2012: The project has recently received in 2012 valubale financial support by The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Negaunee Foundation.