Photograph by Nick Zantop
Oregon Beaked Moss (Eurhynchium oreganum) is seen here in the early evening light as the last hour of golden sunlight illuminates the forest.
Mosses are an often overlooked, but extremely important part of coastal forest ecosystems, preventing erosion by buffering the soil against rain and runoff. Moss absorbs and temporarily stores nutrients dripping from the forest canopy. While at first glance you may not see any organisms living in the mossy habitat, thriving communities – often microscopic – spend their lives in the shelter of the moss. Mites, small worms, springtails, and countless micro-organisms call the moss home, thanks to its ability to regulate the environmental extremes present in the forest world outside the moss.
Mosses are typically found in dense colonies – cooperation is necessary for their survival, as mosses lack roots, instead absorbing water and nutrients directly through their stems and leaves. By growing in such close proximity, they are able to make the most of the water that drips across them from above. Mosses are also temperature and drought resistant, thanks to their structure and social cooperation.