Using Moss for Stronger Quantification of Air Pollution in Habitat

Author: Isabel Hildesheim
Major: Biology
Approved: Spring 2018
Status: Completed

Moss are an extremely sensitive and important part of many different habitats. Utilizing them to their full potential as bioindicators for pollution could help researchers know when pollution levels start to reach a harmful concentration before there is any loss in biodiversity. This project focused on how to effectively quantify the effects of SO2 pollution on moss in order to create an effective air pollution bioassessment protocol. The methods included an in-habitat assessment of moss diversity and health, SO2 fumigations, morphological observations, photosynthesis and cellular respiration assays, and polar auxin transport (PAT) assays. In order to determine the effect that SO2 has on moss, the morphological observations, photosynthesis and respiration assays, and the PAT assays were conducted before and after fumigation. The results indicated that higher levels of urban development result in less moss diversity and poorer moss health and that species of moss with different levels of pollution tolerance will have different physiological responses to being exposed to SO2, as was indicated by the photosynthesis and cellular respiration assays. The results also indicated that PAT assays could be a useful tool for quantifying the effects of air pollution on moss in the lab and possibly in the field.