Although terrestrial lichens and bryophytes are common in upland plant communities of the Blue
Mountains in northeast Oregon, research on cryptogam communities in this region is wanting. Studies have
shown that lichens and bryophytes can reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility in other semiarid
habitats of North America. Understanding the particular roles terrestrial lichens and bryophytes play in
their ecosystems and how they react to anthropogenic disturbances is part of making sound management
decisions. Managers in the Blue Mountains are now dealing with heavy fuel loads in forested habitats that
were impacted by mountain pine beetles, western spruce budworm infestations, Douglas fir dwarf
mistletoe, and drought from the 1970's into the 1990's. To better understand how cryptogam communities
respond to fuels reduction treatments in insect impacted Abies grandis classified forests of the central Blue
Mountains, we compared species composition of logged and burned stands to stands that have not been
treated in forty years. We found early colonizing species to be much more frequent in treated sites (logged
and burned) while later seral species occurred more often in untreated stands. Because untreated stands had
more microsite heterogeneity (coarse woody debris as well as bare soils) there was generally a higher
diversity of species than in treated sites.
A comparison of the composition of cryptogam communities in these degraded forests to 'healthy'
stands in the central Blue Mountains is difficult because unaffected stands are scarce and literature on such
communities previous to the insect epidemics is lacking. To get a better idea of the potential that exists for
terrestrial lichen and bryophyte community composition, this research was expanded to other common
upland habitats in the area. In total 53 sites in five different plant community types were investigated (Abies
grandis, Pinus ponderosa, Pinus contorta, Poa secunda grasslands, and Artemisia rigida steppe). Lichen
and bryophyte composition and environmental characteristics were compared across sites using
This research has provided some basic information on community composition in upland habitats
of the Blue Mountains. Soil characteristics had the strongest correlation to community composition.
Habitats with sparsely vegetated, shallow, rocky soils (bunchgrass, Artemisia rigida, Pinus ponderosa) had
very different cryptogam presence than those with deep soils covered by coarse woody debris and denser
vegetation (Abies grandis and Pinus contorta forests).
While investigating dry bunchgrass habitat of the region an unattached form of Grimmia ovalis
was found on many sites with shallow soils and sparse vegetation. Although this moss is commonly known
on rock in western North America, it has not yet been reported as unattached in North America. It has,
however, been recorded from Africa and Venezuela. Unattached mosses, or moss balls, form when a force,
such as frost heaving, cleaves a moss clump from a substrate. That same force, or another, will rotate the
clump exposing alternating sides to growth. The formation of moss balls in northeast Oregon are likely
created by freeze thaw cycles. More research on their biology and habitat is needed to verify this theory.