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The diversity of primitive plants and fungi is typically not well documented compared to vascular plants because they are often more difficult to identify and there are far fewer botanists with expertise in their identification. Nonetheless, there are several studies that have contributed to our knowledge of the diversity and ecological function of lower plants and fungi in the Cedar River Municipal Watershed.
An initial inventory of mosses and liverworts (pdf) (together referred to as byrophytes) in the Cedar River Watershed was conducted in 2001 by an SPU student intern, Tammy Stout, and expanded in 2006 and 2007 by Martin Hutten, a regional expert in bryophyte taxonomy. The 2006-2007 survey (pdf) was in conjunction with an inventory of lichens, described below. An addition, there was a survey of bryophytes (pdf) by David Wagner in 2006 as part of the 700 Road Forest Habitat Restoration Project.
A total of 236 bryophyte species (pdf) have been documented in the watershed by the combined surveys of Stout, Wagner, and Hutten. Several of these species are uncommon in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, including:
In general, the stair-step moss (Hylocomium splendens) and the gooseneck moss (Rhytidiadelphus loreus) are among the most common mosses found on forest floors. Isothecium moss (Isothecium stoloniferum) is one of the most common mosses on tree branches and trunks (above the base), where it forms long hair-like strands. Sphagnum mosses are usually found in wetlands growing on organic soils.
Lichens are a symbiotic association of an algal and a fungal species. Katie Glew, an associate curator at the University of Washington Herbarium, conducted an extensive lichen inventory (pdf) of the Cedar River Watershed in conjunction with Martin Hutten’s bryophyte inventory. She sampled most of the same sites and followed a similar methodology. Her inventory built upon lichen surveys that Tammy Stout (2001) and David Wagner (2006) did previously.
A total of 240 lichen taxa have been identified in the Cedar River Watershed as a result of the inventories by Stout, Wagner, and Glew, although most were not identified to species. Some unexpected findings of Glew’s study were huge colonies of the genus Nephroma in a 700 year old old-growth stand and a high abundance of Cladonia spp. on the forest floor and fallen logs, especially in older forests. Cyanolichens, those lichens with cyanobacteria capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen, were not well represented in the lichen sampling, possibly because their preferred substrate, hardwood trees and shrubs, were not abundant in the sample lots. Alternatively, air pollution may be reducing the diversity and abundance of cyanolichens in the Cedar River Watershed.
Fungi—such as molds and mushrooms—are neither plant nor animal. Although fungi have a form that is superficially plant-like, they are heterotrophs (as animals are), obtaining their energy from external sources, like decaying wood, rather than photosynthesis.
No fungal diversity surveys have yet been undertaken in the watershed. However, some scientific research involving fungi has been conducted in the watershed, primarily of mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi, many of them common mushrooms, have symbiotic associations with many vascular plants, including conifers. With their extensive network of mycelia, mycorrhizae extract nutrients such as phosphorus from forest soils and transfer it to the forest trees through special connections with tree root tips. Numerous studies conducted in the Cedar River Watershed have investigated the role of mycorrhizal fungi in forest ecosystem. One of these studies (Cline et al. 2005) includes a list of fungal species observed in the watershed.
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