The Moss Don’t Mind!

Written by Nile Drochak, ESLLC 2017-2018

With climate change warming our atmosphere, the excess carbon dioxide acidifies our oceans and harms sea life. In addition to ocean acidification, lead contaminated water has also been a huge environmental concern if left untreated. The combination of these two phenomena can be detrimental to humans, and other species. Typically, the process of removing lead from water includes the use of fossil fuels, which is also hurtful to the environment. Fortunately, the F. hygrometrica moss has a cleaning process called phytoremediation which “is a method that uses photosynthesizing organisms to clean up soil or water contamination”. The F. hygrometrica moss can grow in waters contaminated with metals like copper, zinc, and lead because of phytoremediation. An experiment done to show their metal-absorbing abilities showed that “after 22 hours of exposure… the moss cells had absorbed lead up to 74% of their dry weight”. They are known to thrive in environments which would be toxic to other organisms.


Above is a picture of the cell of the F. hygrometrica moss and its cell wall with absorbed lead. More than 85% of the lead accumulated in the cell walls (CW), and smaller amounts absorbed in the organelle membranes and inside the chloroplast. This lead would otherwise be contaminating the water and possibly end up in people’s drinking water. This moss could also be useful in mining and chemical industries as they are a natural waste cleaner.

A two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance showed “polygalacturonic acid in the cell walls was responsible for absorbing the lead”. A two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance is “a set of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) methods which give data plotted in a space defined by two frequency axes rather than one”. When the F. hygrometrica moss data was compared to the data of land plants and seaweeds, it showed the presence of the polygalacturonic acid was more frequent in the cell wall of the moss than any other plant. The group leader in this investigation Hitoshi Sakakibara says that “”Our findings show that F. hygrometrica is a useful bio-material for recovering lead from aqueous solutions…and will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, specifically the Life on Land goal”.

Here is a Haiku to further explain the greatness of the F. hygrometrica moss:

Eat chlorine like, sauce

I want to help you clean, floss

Yes that’s the dream, moss

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