Skip to main content
You are here
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

Ex situ conservation of threatened UK bryophytes

Novel methods pioneered for initiation, growth and storage of threatened UK bryophytes in aseptic culture and cryopreservation. A collection of species of high conservation concern in cryostorage with trials to reintroduce cryo-preserved material to natural sites.

Weissia levieri

The UK bryophyte flora is of global significance but despite this at least 10% of the c.1000 species are threatened and 111 listed on UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).

Besides offering ‘insurance’ against loss in the wild, ex situ collections of bryophytes are fundamental to translocation/reintroductions and provide material for experimental methods to be tested in laboratory and field. They offer the opportunity to understand population biology and genetic conservation issues through molecular screening and can play a role in revealing underlying biological developmental processes.

In 2000, The UK Country Agencies (Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Council for Wales) in partnership with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, launched the ex situ project for the conservation of threatened bryophytes, the first such project of its kind in the world. At the close of the second phase in December 2006 when funding ceased, 21 priority species (29 accessions) chosen in collaboration with BAP Lead Partners from World, European, and UK Red Lists had been propagated axenically and placed as a cryopreserved collection in liquid nitrogen.

During the project, novel methods were developed for initiation and propagation of living material in aseptic culture, ’weaning’ ex situ material onto natural substrates, establishing collecting protocols, and monitoring of survival post-cryopreservation. Material was deposited in the DNA bank in the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew and a re-introduction trial was also initiated using ex situ material of Orthodontium gracile.

Other outputs of the project include several papers published in scientific journals, promotion of bryophyte conservation to a general audience and provision of advice and material for scientific research. The project is represented by Margaret Ramsay on the IUCN Species Survival Commission Bryophyte Specialist Group (IUCN SSC BSG) and Reintroduction Specialist Group and on the board of the European Committee for Conservation of Bryophytes (ECCB).

With Target 8 of GSPC stating that 60% of threatened plant species should be in accessible ex situ collections, the partnership between Natural England and Kew was re-established in 2010, with funding for three years.

Propagation and cryopreservation techniques are being used to secure addition priority taxa in the existing ex situ collection and methods developed for spore cryopreservation and problematic species. Feasibility planning has begun for a systematic programme for an ex situ conservation collection of all UK bryophytes – a bryophyte ‘spore bank’.

The conservation significance of selected bryophytes is recognised at a European level in Red Lists and 26 species are conferred protection within the Bern Convention. Several laboratories and organisations are now involved with ex situ conservation of bryophytes. A European network for in vitro conservation of bryophytes has been established with the aim of establishing a living tissue collection, a cryopreserved collection and a spore collection maintained at various sites within Europe.


Key publications 2006-2011

  • Rowntree,J.K. (2006). Development of novel methods for the initiation of in vitro bryophyte cultures for conservation. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Culture 87: 191-201.
  • Rowntree, J.K., Duckett, J.G., Mortimer, C.L., Ramsay, M.M. & Pressel, S.P. (2007). Formation of specialized propagules resistant to desiccation and cryopreservation in the threatened moss Ditrichum plumbicola Crundw (Ditrichales, Bryopsida). Annals of Botany 100: 483-496.
  • Rowntree J. K., & Ramsay M.M. (2009) How bryophytes came out of the cold: successful cryopreservation of threatened species. Biodivers. Conserv. 18:1413-1420.
  • Rowntree J.K., Cowan R.S., Leggett, M., Ramsay, M.M. & Fay M.F. (2010). Which moss is which? Identification of the threatened moss Orthodontium gracile using molecular and morphological techniques. Conservation Genetics 11(3): 1033-1042.
  • Rowntree, J.,K. Pressel, S., Ramsay, M.M., Sabovljevic, A. & Sabovljevic, M. (2011). In vitro conservation of European bryophytes. In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol.—Plant  47: 55–64.

Project partners and collaborators

UK

  • Countryside Council for Wales
  • Natural England
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Natural History Museum
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
  • British Bryological Society
  • Dr J.K Rowntree, University of York

Project funders


UK
  • Natural England
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Countryside Council for Wales (2001-2006)
  • Natural England (2010 -2012)

Annex material


Table of cryopreserved species

Species
World red list
European red list
ECCB (1995)
British red list
Church et al (2001)
Aplodon wormskjoldii
 
 
Critically Endangered
Bartramia stricta
 
 
Critically Endangered
Bryum calophyllum
 
 
Vulnerable
Bryum schleicheri
 
 
Critically Endangered
Bryum uliginosum
 
 
Critically Endangered
Bryum warneum
 
 
Vulnerable 
Buxbaumia viridis
 
Vulnerable 
Endangered
Cyclodictyon laetevirens
 
 
Endangered
Ditrichum cornubicum
Critically Endangered
Endangered
Endangered
Ditrichum plumbicola
 
Vulnerable
Near threatened
Jamesoniella undulifolia
Vulnerable
Endangered
Endangered
Leptodontium gemmascens
 
 
Vulnerable
Micromitrium tenerum
 
Vulnerable
Critically Endangered
Orthodontium gracile
 
Endangered
Vulnerable
Orthotrichum pallens
 
 
Endangered
Rhynchostegium rotundifolium
 
 
Critically Endangered
Seligeria carnicolica
 
 
Critically Endangered
Sematophyllum demissum
 
 
Endangered
Tortula cernua
 
 
Endangered
Weissia multicapsularis
 
Endangered
Endangered
Weissia rostellata
 
 
Near threatened

 

 

Project team

HPE
Margaret Ramsay, Jennifer Rowntree

Jodrell Laboratory
Robyn Cowan, Michael Fay

Wakehurst
Andrew Jackson, Iain Parkinson

Science Teams: 
Project Leader: