Mosses, liverworts and hornworts, collectively known as bryophytes, number to about 20,000 species worldwide. In the Philippines alone, 1,200 species have been reported, making the country one of the most species-rich in Southeast Asia and a haven for botanists and researchers. Those intending to collect these special plants for biodiversity inventories should be able to practice the appropriate ways in getting specimens from the field and processing the samples. In this article, we summarize the recommendations of James R. Shevock1, Ivy Amor F. Lambio2 and Benito Tan3, who wrote on "Collection and Preparation Techniques of Bryophyte Specimens in Biodiversity Inventories." The article appeared in the recently published report of the 2011 Hearst Philippines Biodiversity Expedition done by the US-based California Academy of Science.

Importance of Voucher Specimens

According to the authors, the collection of voucher specimens is intrinsic to the study of bryophytes and, of course, biology. These specimens, they reported, "provide a historical framework and insights into species distribution and habitats."

Because bryophytes are very small and cannot be easily identified in the field, there should be an existing inventory or collection of voucher specimens which can be used to discriminate new species for identification.

"Species cannot be named with a high degree of assurance, so nothing will substitute for a properly prepared voucher specimen," the authors wrote.

In order to produce high quality specimens for herbaria and museums, one should do the necessary pre-field preparations such as gathering as much information as possible. Topographic maps, satellite imagery, climatic conditions and other information on the collection trip per se and the sampling sites will be important. A collection numbering system should be put in place and field data should be recorded before doing the actual inventory sampling. "Record-keeping is perhaps the most critical component of conducting any field work," they reported.

Using Paper Packets

Collecting bryophytes is fairly simple, and the direct way of doing so is by placing the sample into a folded paper packet. The specimen should not be placed in a plant press and there is no need to treat them with alcohol.

Paper packets are easily made using a short bond paper (8.5 x 11 in) which has pre-printed guides for folding and creating a uniformly sized packet of an approximate dimension of 9.5 x 14 cm.

A template can be prepared beforehand, with printed text that upon folding, becomes the front flap of the collecting packet. The text may already include different conditions describing the ecological features of the area where the specimen is collected, and one would only have to encircle the appropriate option for the condition (e.g. light, water, topography, habitat, substrate, elevation, etc.). The template can just be photocopied in order to produce the necessary number of packets for field use.

These paper packets, when filled with the plant material, can then be easily put in cheap shoe-box sized plastic containers during transport and moving about in the field.

Collecting Bryophytes

The authors recommended to just collect material which fits in the palm of the hand. Overcollection should be avoided and the rule in the field is not to remove 10 percent of a population from the substrate. Try to accommodate 2-3 duplicates of the bryophyte in a single packet, which will also receive the same collection number. The duplicates can be sent to other specialists for identification or placed in another herbarium.

Drying the Specimens and Processing

Bryophyte specimens are simply air dried and should never be placed in a plant press because the species have many diagnostic features which can be lost when they are pressed flat.

At the end of each fieldwork, the collections should be removed from the plastic container  and dried because the packets are likely to be very wet. Wet packets may develop mildew and become discoloured. The packets can be arranged on a table, standing them up similar to rows of tents, and using a small fan to hasten drying.

One should also develop an herbarium label which will be attached to the corresponding collecting packet. It would be very efficient if a computer database program has already been setup so that information on the label and packet can be easily retrieved.

Labels are printed in archival and acid-free paper using a laser printer and should include the locality data for the collection number recorded in the field notebook and the ecological and site specific data circled on the field collecting packet.

Developing a Bryoflora of the Philippines

It is quite unfortunate that the number of bryological specimens found in Philippine herbaria is relatively low, as much of the collection and inventory of these species have been done by foreign scientists in the past. Of course, more attention has been given to the collection of vascular plants by botanists and taxonomists.

"There is clearly a need to develop a cadre of resident professionals which will actively acquire and identify bryological specimens through intensive inventory and fieldwork," the authors reported.


Author affiliations:

1Department of Botany, California Academy of Sciences, USA
2Institute of Biological Sciences and Curator, UPLB Museum of Natural History, The Philippines
3University of California, Berkeley, California, USA

For more details on collecting and preparing bryophyte specimens, we encourage you to download the article below:

Shevock J.R., I.A.F. Lambio and B.C. Tan. 2014. Collection and Preparation Techniques of Bryophyte Specimens in Biodiversity Inventories. In: Gary C. Williams and Terrence M. Gosliner (Eds.) The Coral Triangle Triangle, The 2011 Hearst Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. California Academy of Sciences, USA.

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