Where in the World?
Many of the lichens and bryophytes found in Australia are also found in other countries, but there are also many species which are found only in Australia. This contrasts with the flowering plants, where the majority of the species in Australia are endemic.
|The foliose lichen Myelorrhiza antrea was discovered on Bishop Peak. There is only one other species in the genus and both species are known only from north Queensland.
Many of the widespread species that are found in Australia have been here naturally for millennia, but some have undoubtedly been unintentionally introduced to Australia. After European settlement many live plants were brought into the country and, not surprisingly, the odd lichen or bryophyte must have arrived with those potted plants.
|The lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum (above), the moss Funaria hygrometrica (above right) and the liverwort Lunularia cruciata (right) are cosmopolitan species. They are widespread on all continents in a variety of habitats.
Increasing our Knowledge
Knowledge about Australian lichens and bryophytes is very patchy. Many parts of the country havent been properly studied from a lichen or bryophyte perspective and new species are found every year.
The Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research has a cryptogamic herbarium, located at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and various state herbaria hold large collections of lichen and bryophyte specimens. These collections provide research material for ongoing study into the Australian species. In addition, continuing fieldwork is helping to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.
Currently bryophyte research work at the Australian National Botanic Gardens is focussed on hornworts and the liverwort genera Asterella and Fossombronia. The herbarium collections are also used by other research associates to study lichens. The collections are a very valuable resource for research scientists and there is an active loan program, with specimens being lent to researchers all over Australia and overseas.