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Bryophytes

The magnificent 7

As many as 7 species belonging to the Red List of the Bryophytes of Italy have been identified in the area of the municipality of Muzzana del Turgnano. Among them, mosses and liverworts.

With its 100 species, bryophyte flora of the Muzzana woods is of particular interest. Bryophytes are very small plants that lack a vascular system and therefore absorb water by capillarity through the entire plant surface. Bryophytes are divided into three groups: Bryophyta (mosses), Marchantiophyta (liverworts) and Anthocerotophyta (anthocerotes).
This division is based on macro- and microscopic morphological characteristics. Mosses have multi-cellular rhizoids (a kind of small roots with a mainly anchoring function), a frequent spiralled arrangement of leaves on stems and branches, and a capsule with teeth around the mouth. Liverworts may have a flat, elongated body (thallus) with lobes and grip onto the substrate by means of unicellular rhizoids, or they may have a leafy appearance but no real distinction between stem and leaves. Liverwort cells have organelles called oil bodies. 
Anthocerotes have a thallose body but differ from liverworts in the absence of oil bodies in the cells and in a scale-free lower page of the thallus.

To date, 83 moss species and 17 liverwort species have been counted in the Muzzana woods, plus a further 4 and 2 species respectively found in areas more subject to anthropic action. Anthoceroses are missing.
Literature on the subject comprises a considerable number of publications. The first article was written by Francesco Sguazzin in 1999 Research then continued for several years with the help of Renzo Casasola.
Although they may seem insignificant at first glance, bryophytes have an ecological role as important as that of the so-called ‘higher’ vegetation. They photosynthesise using CO2 like other green plants and host a large number of microorganisms and small invertebrates such as rotifers, tardigrades, spiders, mites, millipedes and crustaceans. They are also useful for biomonitoring climate fluctuations and pollution levels. For these reasons, bryophytes deserve no less attention than other, perhaps more popular parts of the plant kingdom like vascular plants.