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Image: This Bristle moss (Rock bristle Seligeria acutifolia) is only a few mm high and difficult to spot in the rock crevices where it grows. Photo: Lars Hedenäs

Speeding up conservation in poorly known organism groups – Approaches in bryophyte species conservation

In a world where the deterioration of ecossytems, species, genetic variation, and related services is accelerating in an alarming speed, we need to scale up our efforts to halt this unprecedented loss. Species conservation remains an important cornerstone to address the global devastating biodiversity decline.

Forskningsområden: Botanik

Forskningsämnen: Taxonomi & artbeskrivning, Mossor & lavar, Växtfysiologi, Rödlistan

Project overview

Project period: Ongoing

Participating departments from the museum: Department of Botany

The earth is facing a major biodiversity crisis. About one million species are expected of going extinct before the end of the century. More than 80% of the estimated nine million species of fungi, plants, and animals on Earth still awaits to be described.

Inconspicuous organisms receive less attention than eye-catching species, in terms of funding, human resources, and public interest, though they are exposed to the same ongoing anthropogenic pressures.

We investigate how we can advance methods to assess extinction risks and improve conservation of bryophytes. Bryophytes, with cirka 20,000 species known globally, are small and poorly studies plants, while they play crucial roles for the function and stability of many ecosystems.

Project description

Speeding up conservation

We follow several approaches to achieve an improved bryophyte conservation, and they build on the engagement and species knowledge of both scientists, conservation agencies and amateur experts. Different persons lead the various sub-projects.

IUCN Red List assessments give objective data on the extinction risk of species but are time-consuming and do not provide sufficient information on conservation actions. One of the current focuses builds on the “European Red List of Mosses, Liverwort and Hornworts”.

Based on distribution, habitat and threat data, climate variables and species’ ecological and biological traits, we model the extinction risk of 1,800 bryophytes of Europe, using machine learning techniques. Further, we use a quantitative method to identity those red-listed species that warrant highest conservation priority in Europe, to use the limited resources and capacities most efficiently.

  • We attempt to delineate European areas of special significance for bryophyte diversity, based on the distribution of red-listed and endemic bryophytes and habitat characteristics.
  • We also work on the potential effects of invasive bryophytes.
  • Finally, we plan a symposium to highlight state-of-the art approaches that can accelerate the documentation of bryophyte diversity on a range of scales and facilitate conservation actions, especially in these and other poorly known organisms.

Selected publications

  1. Van Zuijlen, K., Bisang, I., Nobis, M. P. & Bergamini, A. (2023). Bryophytes of Europe Traits (BET) dataset: a fundamental tool for bryological studies. Journal of Vegetation Science, e13179. doi:10.1111/jvs.13179
  2. Bisang, I., Lienhard, L. & Bergamini, A. 2021. Three decades of field surveys reveal a decline of the arable bryophyte flora in the Swiss lowlands despite agri-environment schemes. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 313, 107325.
  3. Bisang, I. & Hedenäs, L. (2022). Agricultural management, bedrock, and vulnerability of sexual reproduction to climate change affect the occurrence of a European near-endemic moss. Bryophyte Diversity and Evolution 45 (1), pp. 176–187. doi: 10.11646/bde.45.1.11

See Research Gate External link. for more of Irene Bisang’s publications

Project participants

As co-chair of the IUCN SSC Bryophyte Specialist Group External link., Irene Bisang is involved in and supporting various projects that focus on regional redlisting, conservation efforts or conservation method development across the globe.

External participants

For two of the sub-projects described above is Ariel Bergamini, or ECCB, respecitive, the PI.

Project manager

Irene Bisang



Resarch Areas: Botany

Research Subjects: Biotic crises, Ecology & Biology, IUCN, The Red List