Studlar, S.M. & J.E. Peck. 2007. An initial characterization of the species impacted by commercial moss harvest in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. The Bryologist 110(4):752-765.
We examined “moss” (mosses and liverworts) purchased from commercial harvesters at a regional buying shed and in potentially harvestable field sites to find out which species are impacted by the moss harvest trade in West Virginia. First, we found that 60% of mats from 15 commercial quality bags were gathered from rocks. Thuidium delicatulum comprised 65% of total cover, with 77% of the mats from rocks and 23% from logs. Hypnum species (mainly H. imponens and H. curvifolium) comprised 25% of total cover, with 59% from logs and 41% from rocks. Although most of the commercial quality bags were dominated by Thuidium or Hypnum, 73 other bryophytes of low commercial value were incidentally harvested. Thuidium was associated with more incidental bryophytes than Hypnum and these associates often indicated very mesic to aquatic habitats. Commercial quality bags differed in composition from bags culled by the buying shed for low quality. Five such culled bags included Anomodon attenuatus and Metzgeria conjugata and a large number of walking ferns (Asplenium rhizophyllum). Second, we conducted limited field sampling at four sites on or near the Monongahela National Forest to determine the composition of bryophyte communities vulnerable to harvest, including one site thought to have been recently commercially harvested for moss. Results of field studies, albeit preliminary, generally corroborated our bag studies with regard to the ecology of moss harvest (what species are harvested together and from what habitats) and with regard to the prevalence of patchy harvest from rocks. Nevertheless, it was clear that a much greater variety of habitats and/or a larger geographic area is impacted by moss harvest than was sampled, and that direct study of harvesting practices is needed. In addition to the large number of incidentally collected bryophytes, which species-area curves suggest are still not fully captured, many incidentally collected vascular plants and animals were observed in both the buying shed bags and field sampling. We present outstanding information needs and preliminary management recommendations for the Appalachian region.
PNW Moss Lit