The Magical World of Moss: Documentary that explores the vital role that mosses played in the earth’s evolution and how science is only beginning to unlock the secrets and potential of these amazing plants. Mosses have colonised almost every corner of the earth’s surface. Evolving from oceanic algae that emerged onto the land 450 million years ago, these very first terrestrial plants became one of the main sources of oxygen for our evolving planet, helping to transform it from an arid rock into a lush world.
This documentary travels to some of the most beautiful moss-covered landscapes in the world, including Japan, Iceland, France and Denmark, to meet the experts investigating its astonishing properties and potential. Science is only beginning to understand the secrets and possibilities of these remarkable plants.
The Magical World of Moss
Mosses are small, non-vascular flowerless plants in the taxonomic division Bryophyta sensu stricto. Bryophyta may also refer to the parent group bryophytes, which comprise liverworts, mosses, and hornworts. Mosses typically form dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. The individual plants are usually composed of simple leaves that are generally only one cell thick, attached to a stem that may be branched or unbranched and has only a limited role in conducting water and nutrients.
Although some species have conducting tissues, these are generally poorly developed and structurally different from similar tissue found in vascular plants. Mosses do not have seeds and after fertilisation develop sporophytes with unbranched stalks topped with single capsules containing spores. They are typically 0.2–10 cm (0.1–3.9 in) tall, though some species are much larger. Dawsonia, the tallest moss in the world, can grow to 50 cm (20 in) in height. There are approximately 12,000 species.
The Amazing Contributions of Mosses to Earth’s Evolution
Mosses are often overlooked and considered insignificant, but they have made significant contributions to the evolution of the planet. These tiny plants have been around for millions of years, adapting to changing environments and shaping the world as we know it.
The Rise of Land
Mosses played a critical role in the rise of land. They were some of the first plants to colonize land, paving the way for other plants and animals to follow. Mosses have a unique ability to hold water in their leaves, which allowed them to survive in the dry and challenging conditions of early land. By creating a more humid microclimate, mosses helped to create the conditions necessary for other plants to grow and eventually gave rise to the diverse array of terrestrial plants we see today.
Mosses also played an important role in soil formation. As mosses grow and die, they add organic matter to the soil. This organic matter helps to retain moisture and provides a substrate for other plants and microbes to grow. Over time, the accumulation of organic matter and minerals from weathering rocks forms fertile soil, which is essential for the growth of all terrestrial plants.
Mosses also play a critical role in the carbon cycle. Like all plants, mosses absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into organic matter through photosynthesis. This organic matter is then stored in the soil, where it can be preserved for millions of years. This carbon storage helps to regulate the Earth’s climate by removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and preventing it from contributing to global warming.
Finally, mosses also play an important role in maintaining biodiversity. Mosses provide habitat and food for a variety of animals, including insects, mites, snails, and even small mammals. This diversity of life is essential for maintaining the health of ecosystems and ensuring the survival of many species. Mosses may be small, but they have made a big impact on the evolution of the planet. From paving the way for the rise of land to playing a critical role in soil formation and the carbon cycle, mosses have had a profound and lasting impact on the world we live in today.