Great Basin Naturalist


Bryophytes were found to be abundant as components of microbiotic soil crusts on the calcareous soils of Mungo National Park, an arid area of southern central Australia. Six sites that reflected differences in soils, topography, and vascular plant vegetation were studied. At each site bryophytes were abundant, both in terms of number of species present and percent ground cover. Number of species present did not differ significantly between sites, but percent bryophyte cover was lower at a site on sand dunes in mallee woodland and a site on a silcrete ridge than at the four other sites. Environmental factors (soil texture, pH, conductivity, nutrient status, vascular plant vegetation, light level, leaf litter, and fire frequency) appear to play a significant part in determining bryophyte distribution. Mosses that occur at Mungo are also widespread on calcareous substrates throughout arid southern Australia.

Many of the bryophyte species present at Mungo also occur on limestones in high rainfall areas of eastern Australia. Environmental factors favoring bryophytic soil crusts in arid Australia are also present on limestones in high rainfall areas of eastern Australia and may account for tile presence of many arid zone bryophyte species on limestones. In Australia there appears to be a relationship between rainfall and the ratios of acrocarpous to pleurocarpous mosses, and thallose to leafy liverworts. Recognition of calcareous soils, widespread in arid areas of southern Australia, may be possible by assessing a combination of characteristics of bryophyte assemblages.