Published: March 10, 2011

Bryophytes: Closest Living Relatives of Early Land Plants

Matthew Von Konrat, Head, Collections, Gantz Family Collections Center

A rare collection of 13 publications in a broad-based botanical journal is solely dedicated to these remarkable early land plants.

A recent issue of Phytotaxa is dedicated to a group of green land plants commonly referred to as bryophytes. A broad consensus confirms that bryophytes may not be monophyletic, but rather represent three paraphyletic lines, i.e., Marchantiophyta (liverworts), Anthocerotophyta (hornworts), and Bryophyta (mosses). Together, bryophytes are the second largest group of land plants after flowering plants, and are pivotal in our understanding of early land plant evolution.  A growing body of evidence is now supporting liverworts as the earliest diverging lineage of embryophytes, i.e., sister to all other groups of land plants.

Bryophytes are important components of the vegetation in many regions of the world, constituting a major part of the biodiversity in moist forest, wetland, mountain and tundra ecosystems.  Together, the three lineages, play a significant role in the global carbon budget and CO2 exchange, plant succession, production and phytomass, nutrient cycling and water retention. Bryophyte communities offer microhabitats that are critical to the survival of a tremendous diversity of organisms such as single-celled eukaryotes, protozoa and numerous groups of invertebrates. These groups of plants are also important environmental indicators and have been used as predictors of past climate change, to validate climate models and as potential indicators of global warming.

The compilation of this volume can be attributed to a community effort and the high quality of papers is the product of all those who participated as reviewers, contributors and editorial support. In preparing for the volume, it became evident that the study of liverworts, hornworts, and mosses remains strong and has a healthy future as evidenced by contributions from senior scientists, post-doctoral researchers and doctoral students. We include 13 scientific papers from 35 authors. We hope the broad scope of papers will draw wide appeal and interest beyond the study of bryophytes. The papers include a broad array of disciplines and subjects, including biogeography, checklists and distribution, conservation, delimitation of species, fungal symbioses in bryophytes, molecular phylogenetics, species richness and systematics.

The papers include a broad array of disciplines and subjects, including biogeography, checklists and distribution, conservation, delimitation of species, fungal symbioses in bryophytes, molecular phylogenetics, species richness and systematics. The entire issue is open access.


Matthew Von Konrat

Kia ora! Greetings! I am originally from Aotearoa-New Zealand and relocated to Chicago in 2001. My field of interest has focused on the systematics of pteridophytes and bryophytes, particularly liverworts. I am stimulated by the variety of disciplines that plant systematics has to offer including aspects of plant ecology & biogeography, conservation, reproductive biology, morphology, ultrastructure, and the use of chemical markers. I am also particularly interested in theoretical aspects relating to species concepts and biogeography and how our understanding of these relate to conservation biology and conservation management decisions. I have deep interests in collection management and digitization (databasing and digital imaging). I also have strong interests in citizen science, education outreach and the dissemination of knowledge using various forms of multimedia.