Ancient Earth moss as ‘pioneer plant’ for Mars ?

A desert moss that can stand extreme drought and cold on Earth may serve as a pioneer plant on Mars and pave the way for human colonisation, according to a new study from China.

Botanists and ecologists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have identified a plant that could one day be grown as a crop on Mars thanks to its ability to withstand harsh environments.

The desert moss, Syntrichia caninervis, can survive in an environment lethal to most other types of life. In a new study published in The Innovationscientists exposed this plant to extreme conditions to test its durability.

The researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the moss Syntrichia caninervis thrives in places like the Tibetan Plateau, the Mojave Desert and Antarctica by going into a form of hibernation that can last for years.

The researchers took some moss samples to a simulation cabin at China’s National Space Science Centre in Beijing to test their ability to endure Mars-like conditions.

The simulator was preset to an air composition of 95 per cent carbon dioxide, temperature range between -60 and 20 Celsius and radiation levels similar to those found on the surface of Mars.

According to the paper published by the peer-reviewed journal The Innovation, the moss quickly revived when it was rehydrated after losing nearly all its cell water or spending years in a freezer at -80 degrees Celsius.

Astrobiologist Lin Wei from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics in Beijing said that “Mosses were the first embryophyte to leave the ocean and colonise land in Earth’s history. We are curious to see if colonisation could happen again on Mars.”

Although there is still a long way to go to create self-sufficient habitats on other planets, the research demonstrated the great potential of Syntrichia caninervis as a pioneer plant for growth on Mars, the research team said.


The Innovation, Volume 5, Issue 4, 1 July 2024, 100657.

SCMP, July 3, 2024.…/could-moss-survive-and-thrive…

Read more:
Past Chronicle, July 01, 2024.