Jenna’s research makes the news
Last week, The New York Times published an article about moss in the Mojave Desert — and none other than Jenna Ekwealor from UC Berkeley’s Bryolab was behind it.
The research was first published by Jenna and Dr. Kirsten Fisher from California State University, Los Angeles in PLoS One and details the pair’s recent find: moist, green moss in the middle of a dry desert.
Usually the desert moss species Syntrichia caninervis exists in a parched state, dried up and awaiting the next desert rainstorm. But growing underneath pebbles of milky quartz, S. caninervis was able to flourish despite the desert’s usually harsh conditions. The underside of these rocks provides a space where moisture can persist for longer than usual and where the intense radiation from the sun is moderated.
Another species of moss, Tortula inermis, also relies on the pebbles for protection, in this case, from the cold winter temperatures in the Mojave Desert — sometimes as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit in the valleys and zero degrees at the highest elevations.
At the end of the day, Jenna’s research highlights a fascinating microenvironment that was previously unnoticed by scientists. As stated in the story from The New York Times, though these moss growths are small, they still have the ability to affect carbon cycling and soil conservation.