Could you use Physcomitrella patens in the combat of desertification, a moss that is highly tolerant against drought ?

MY HYPOTHESIS (Willem Van Cotthem)

A highly drought-tolerant moss like Physcomitrella patens can possibly be used to stabilize soils that are subject to erosion (see image above). If so, one could spread spores of this moss species over the soil and keep the surface moistened for a shorter time (mist or plastic sheet as cover until spore germination ?). Once installed on a limited surface, the moss can probably disperse through spore formation.  I would not be surprised if one would confirm that other moss species are also highly drought-tolerant and could be used to limit soil erosion in desertifying areas.

I would be very pleased to be kept informed on possible research projects. Sincere thanks.

Photo credit: Google

The bryophyte Physcomitrella patens. (Photo: AG Reski / University of Freiburg im Breisgau)

Physcomitrella patens is highly tolerant against drought, salt and osmotic stress.

by Frank W., Ratnadewi D., Reski R.

Plant Biotechnology, University of Freiburg, Schaenzlestr. 1, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.

in Planta. 2005 Jan;220(3):384-94. Epub 2004 Aug 18.


In order to determine the degree of tolerance of the moss Physcomitrella patens to different abiotic stress conditions, we examined its tolerance against salt, osmotic and dehydration stress.

Compared to other plants like Arabidopsis thaliana, P. patens exhibits a high degree of abiotic stress tolerance, making it a valuable source for the identification of genes effecting the stress adaptation.

Plants that had been treated with NaCl tolerated concentrations up to 350 mM. Treatments with sorbitol revealed that plants are able to survive concentrations up to 500 mM.

Furthermore, plants that had lost 92% water on a fresh-weight basis were able to recover successfully.

For molecular analyses, a P. patens expressed sequence tag (EST) database was searched for cDNA sequences showing homology to stress-associated genes of seed plants and bacteria. 45 novel P. patens genes were identified and subjected to cDNA macroarray analyses to define their expression pattern in response to water deficit.

Among the selected cDNAs, we were able to identify a set of genes that is specifically up-regulated upon dehydration. These genes encode proteins exerting their function in maintaining the integrity of the plant cell as well as proteins that are known to be members of signaling networks. The identified genes will serve as molecular markers and potential targets for future functional analyses.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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