Publication Details

This article was originally published as Robinson, SA, Wasley, J, Popp, M and Lovelock, CE, Desiccation tolerance of three moss species from continental Antarctica, Australian Journal of Plant Physiology, 27, 2000, 379-388. Copyright CSIRO. Original journal available here.


Tolerance of desiccation was examined in three species of moss, Grimmia antarctici Card., Ceratodon purpureus (Hedw.) Brid. and Bryum pseudotriquetrum (Hedw.) Gaertn., Meyer et Scherb. collected from two sites of contrasting water availability in the Windmill Islands, continental Antarctica. Physiological tolerance to desiccation was measured using chlorophyll fluorescence in plugs of moss during natural drying in the laboratory. Differences in relative water contents, rates of drying and the response of photosynthesis to desiccation were observed among the three species and between sites. Of the three species studied, G. antarctici showed the lowest capacity to sustain photosynthetic processes during desiccation, B. pseudotriquetrum had an intermediate response and showed the greatest plasticity and C. purpureus showed the greatest capacity to sustain photosynthesis during desiccation. These results fit well with the known distribution of the three species with G. antarctici being limited to relatively wet sites, C. purpureus being common in the driest sites and B. pseudotriquetrum showing a wide distribution between these two extremes. Levels of soluble carbohydrates were also measured in these samples following desiccation and these indicate the presence of stachyose, an oligosaccharide known to be important in desiccation tolerance in seeds, in B. pseudotriquetrum. Both gross morphology and carbohydrate content are likely to contribute to differences in desiccation tolerance of the moss species. These results indicate that if the Casey region continues to dry out, as a result of local geological uplifting or global climate change, we would expect to see not only reductions in the moss community but also changes in community composition. Grimmia antarctici is likely to become more limited in distribution as C. purpureus and B. pseudotriquetrum expand into drying areas