Technical Description: Plants minute, reddish brown to yellowish or olive brown, composed of compact clusters of 4-8 leaves, the whole somewhat resembling a bulb of garlic 1-1.5 mm wide and about the same tall. Leaves erect, turgid, glossy, 0.25-0.5 mm wide, to 3 mm long but usually less than 1 mm, rounded at the back with no obvious costa or keel, the margins strongly infolded and hood-like when dry, concealing rows of filaments attached to the surface of the leaf. At least some leaves have conspicuous transparent awns varying from 1/3 to equaling the length of the leaf. Setae reddish-brown, (4) 8-10 mm long, straight or slightly curved. Capsules occasional to frequent, reddish-brown, straight or slightly curved, 2.5-3 mm long, the narrow and elongate operculum up to 1/3 the length of the urn. In arid areas the leafy portions (gametophytes) of many moss species are often extremely stunted and do not produce capsules. Distinctive characters: A diminutive moss composed of (1) clusters of 4-8 thick, erect, brown to reddish-brown, glossy, usually awned leaves with (2) no obvious costa or keel at the back of the leaf, and (3) incurved margins concealing rows of filaments on the surface of the leaf. Similar species: Pterygoneurum ovatum and P. subsessile have erect glossy leaves with the same number and size of leaves per plant that are sometimes the same reddish-brown color, but the leaves (1) are not turgid, (2) they are obviously costate, (3) they have awns up to 3 times as long as the leaves, and (4) the capsules are short, broad, glossy, and either shortly exserted or immersed among the leaves. Dwarfed specimens of Tortula caninervis (= T. bistratosa) have erect leaves with the same reddish-brown color but (1) leaves are not turgid or glossy and (2) individual shoots are typically composed of 12 or more obviously costate leaves. Didymodon vinealis var. brachyphyllus (= D. brachyphyllus) has the same reddish-brown color but (1) individual shoots are typically more elongate and composed of 12 or more obviously costate leaves, (2) the leaves are not glossy or turgid, and (3) the leaves have strongly recurved margins. Other descriptions and illustrations: Lawton 1971: 86 (as Aloina pilifera); Flowers 1973: 176 (as Aloina pilifera); Delgadillo 1994: 364; Stark and Delgadillo 2001: 106; Delgadillo 2007: 615.
Life History: Protonema inconspicuous, forming buds and shoots in usual fashion of moss growth and development. Bryophytes in arid habitats are often sterile, probably because high soil surface temperatures and low precipitation reduce opportunities for fertilization in these stressful habitats. Stark and Delgadillo (2001) found plants of Aloina bifrons in the Mojave Desert that were often connected to each other by subterranean rhizoids, forming clonal colonies that may enhance production of sporophytes in arid environments.
Range, Distribution, and Abundance: Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Mexico, the Mediterranean, and widely distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Pacific Northwest currently known only from the interior Columbia River Basin.
National Forests: none documented or suspected. BLM Districts: none documented; suspected on the Burns, Lakeview, Prineville, Spokane, and Vale districts because of proximity to known sites and availability of suitable habitat (Department of Defense: Boardman Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility, Morrow Co., Oregon; Hat Rock State Park and Juniper Canyon, Umatilla Co., Oregon; USFWS: Hanford Reach National Monument, Washington).
Scarce in the Pacific Northwest but probably undercollected.
Habitat Associations: In the Pacific Northwest, Aloina bifrons is a component of biological soil crusts (previously called "cryptogamic," cryptobiotic," or "microphytic" crusts) in arid shrub-steppe and grassland habitat. It occurs on soil as scattered individuals or clusters of individuals over rock, soil, or sand in grassland and sagebrush steppe at elevations below 4.000 feet. It may be common locally but is most frequent in least-disturbed, well-developed soil crust communities on silt loams of moderately low pH (McIntosh 2003a, 2003b). Vascular plant associations are Pseudoroegneria spicata and Poa secunda with varying amounts of Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis.
Threats: Grazing, OHV traffic, and to a lesser degree fire are the primary threats to Aloina bifrons because these are the three main factors that negatively impact biological soil crusts. Soil crusts are fragile and extremely vulnerable to being pulverized by livestock and vehicle tires. Tire tracks may remain visible up to 20 years after damage has occurred. Well-preserved biological soil crusts are rare in the Pacific Northwest because grazing has been so pervasive and few areas have escaped impacts. A few known sites were inaccessible to livestock or vehicles, while others have been excluded from grazing for up to 65 years and are in various stages of recovery.
Conservation Considerations: Revisit known localities and monitor the status of the populations. Search for new populations on federal and state lands with high-quality biological soil crusts, particularly those with protected status. Survey for intact biological soil crusts in suitable habitat and protect the best sites; fencing (or similar) may be necessary to prevent trampling and OHV use.
Conservation rankings: Global: G3; National: N1. Colorado: S1S3; Oregon: S1, List 2; British Columbia: S2S3, Blue List.
Preparer: John A. Christy
Date Completed: May 2007
Edited by: Rob Huff, July 2007
Updated in December 2009 by Camille Duncan (Update added Attachment 1, Photos, to the Species Fact Sheet).
References Delgadillo M., C. 1994. Aloina. Pp. 362-365 in: A.J. Sharp, H. Crum & P.M. Eckel (eds). The Moss Flora of Mexico. 2 volumes. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 69: 1-1113.
_______. 2007. Aloina. Pp. 614-617 in: Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 27. Oxford University Press, New York. 713 pp.
Flowers, S. 1973. Mosses: Utah and the West. Brigham Young University Press, Provo, UT. 567 pp.
Lawton, E. 1971. Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Hattori Botanical Laboratory, Nichinan, Japan. 362 pp.
McIntosh, T.T. 2003a. An assessment of lichen and bryophyte biodiversity and biological soil crust community relationships in the Hanford Reach National Monument. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington. Biospherics Environmental, Vancouver, British Columbia. 54 pp.
_______. 2003b. Biological soil crusts of the Hanford Reach National Monument. Pp. 23-42 in: Evans, J.R., M.P. Lih & P.W. Dunwiddie (eds.), Biodiversity studies of the Hanford Site. Final report to U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Nature Conservancy of Washington, Seattle. 156 pp.
http://www.pnl.gov/ecomon/Docs/biodiversity/biodiversity_03.pdf Norris, D.H. & J.R. Shevock. 2004a. Contributions toward a bryoflora of California: I. A specimen-based catalogue of mosses. Madroño 51: 1-131.
_______ & _______. 2004b. Contributions toward a bryoflora of California: II. A key to the mosses. Madroño 51: 133-269.
Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center. 2007. Rare, threatened and endangered species of Oregon. Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center, Oregon State University. Portland. 100 pp.
http://oregonstate.edu/ornhic/2007_t&e_book.pdf Stark, L.R. & C. Delgadillo M. 2001. Rhizoautoicous Aloina bifrons in the Mojave Desert, a possible adaptation to increase spore production. Bryologist 104: 104-108.
Attachment 1 – Photos All photos by Dr. Judy Harpel, under contract with the Oregon/Washington Bureau of Land Management.