Monitoring Air Quality using Moss

Welcome to the MOSSclone Research Consortium

The consortium aims to invent and test a novel, precise and inexpensive method to monitor air contamination, especially by heavy metals.

The MOSSclone partners from universities as well as small and medium enterprises situated across Europe collaborate to create this new biotechnological tool which will function as a passive contaminant sensor consisting of a devitalized moss clone.

The MOSSclone project is funded by the European Union in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Technological Development.

more: About


6 March 2017

Category: Publication

Sphagnum palustre clone vs native Pseudoscleropodium purum: A first trial in the field to validate the future of the moss bag technique

We tested and compared the accumulation performance between bags filled with a Sphagnum palustre L. clone or with native Pseudoscleropodium purum Hedw. in urban, industrial, agricultural and background areas. Among the eighteen elements investigated, S. palustre was significantly enriched in 10 elements, while P. purum was enriched only in 6 elements, and had a consistently lower uptake capacity than S. palustre. The Sphagnum palustre clone proved to be more sensitive in terms of metal uptake and showed a better performance as a bioaccumulator, providing a higher accumulation signal and allowing a finer distinction among the different land uses and levels of pollution.

Capozzi, F., P. Adamo, A. Di Palma, J.R. Aboal, R. Bargagli, A.J. Fernandez, P. Lopez Mahia, R. Reski, M. Tretiach, V. Spagnuolo, S. Giordano (2017). Environmental Pollution, doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.02.057

20 December 2016

Category: Patent

Moss passive contaminant sensor patented

The patent, which was the central objective of the MOSSclone Research Consortium, has been granted. The patent of the new and useful invention to monitor air pollutants like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or heavy metals is entitled:

Reski, R., E. Decker, A. Beike, S. Giordano, P. Adamo, M. Tretiach, V. Spagnuolo, R. Bargagli, J.R. Aboal Vinas, C. Real Rodriguez, J. Fernandez Escribano, A. Carballeira Ocana, P. Lopez Mahia, S.N. Muniategui Lorenzo, D. Prada Rodriguez, M. Pinero Iglesias, E. Concha Grana, A. Gonzalez Gonzalez, O. Pokrovsky, A.I. Rey Asensio, J. Ramos Gomez, J. Martinez-Abaigar, H.G. Zechmeister (2016): Passive contaminant sensor device used to sense air pollutants comprising polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or heavy metals or their compounds, comprises axenic devitalized moss clone. Patent EP3076171-A1; WO2016156443-A1.

27 July 2016

Category: Publication

Molecular and chemical characterization of a Sphagnum palustre clone: Key steps towards a standardized and sustainable moss bag technique

We propose a Sphagnum palustre clone as valid candidate for active biomonitoring. We therefore performed a chemical and molecular characterization of the clone. Five anonymous sequences and their primers were obtained as new molecular markers. Element concentration was stable and lower in the clone than in native S. palustre. Elemental composition was not significantly affected by oven and EDTA treatments.

Di Palma, A., D. Crespo Pardo, V. Spagnuolo, P. Adamo, R. Bargagli, D. Cafasso, F. Capozzi, J.R. Aboal, A.G. Gonzalez, O. Pokrovsky, A.K. Beike, R. Reski, M. Tretiach, Z. Varela, S. Giordano (2016): Ecological Indicators 71, 388-397. see whole Abstract

27 July 2016

Category: In the Media

Musgo para detectar la contaminación atmosférica

The Spanish website analaqua reported about the MOSSclone research project.

read Spanish article

11 July 2016

Category: In the Media

Peat Moss to Measure Air Pollution

The German magazine BIOPRO reports about the successful completion of the MOSSclone project.

read German article (pdf file - pages 16 and 17)

26 April 2016

Category: Publication

Best options for the exposure of traditional and innovative moss bags: A systematic evaluation in three European countries

To optimize moss bags the effects of several variables on the metal uptake from the air were evaluated by a systematic experimental design carried out in urban, industrial, agricultural and background areas of three European countries with oceanic, Mediterranean and continental climate. Neither shape, nor mesh size of the bags nor exposure height significantly influenced uptake capacity. Element uptake was more influenced by the density of the moss inside the bags and the relative ratio between its weight and the surface area of the bag: The lower the density, the higher the uptake recorded. Scientists reccomend exposure periods not shorter than 6 weeks and a shared exposure protocol by the research community since it is a key aspect to make biomonitoring surveys directly comparable, also in view of its recognition as a monitoring method by the EU legislation.

Capozzi, F., S. Giordano, J.R. Aboal, P. Adamo, R. Bargagli, T. Boquete, A. Di Palma, C. Real, R. Reski, V. Spagnuolo, K. Steinbauer, M. Tretiach, Z. Varela, H. Zechmeister, J.A. Fernandez (2016): Environmental Pollution 214, 362-373. see whole Abstract

15 February 2016

Category: Publication

Chemical and structural characterization of copper adsorbed on mosses (Bryophyta)

The adsorption of copper (Cu) on four devitalized moss species was studied under different experimental conditions such as a function of pH and Cu concentration in solution. Cu assimilation by living Physcomitrella patents was also investigated and found to be reduced. The four devitalized moss species exhibited the universal adsorption pattern of Cu as a function of pH. In the paper, scientists provide numbers of total binding sites, give adsorption capacities, and identified the main moss surface binding moieties.

González AG, Jimenez-Villacorta F, Beike AK, Reski R, Adamo P, Pokrovsky OS (2016); Journal of Hazardous Materials doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2016.01.060

11 December 2015

MOSSpheres are the device in which the cultivated mosses accumulate pollutants.

Monitoring air quality using MOSSphers at measurement stations,

Both images are licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Category: In the Media

Peat moss and MOSSpheres for measuring air pollution

The Biotech and Life Sciences Portal Baden-Württemberg in Germany, BioPro BW, introduces the “MOSSpheres” in which MOSSclone’s mosses are brought out in the field for biomonitoring pollutants.

Read English version: 
"MOSSclone: peat moss for measuring air pollution"

Read German version: 
"MOSSclone: Torfmoos zur Messung der Luftverschmutzung"

19 October 2015

Category: Oral Presentation

MossClone Project: Creating and testing a method for controlling the air quality based on a new biotechnological tool. Use of a devitalized moss clone as passive contaminant sensor

Giordano S, Aboal J, Adamo P, Babgagli R, Beike AK, Bowkett M, Capozzi F, Carballeira CB, Ceolin A, Concha-Grana E, Crespo Pardo D, Decker EL, Di Palma A, Fernandez JA, Fernandez V, Gonzalez AG, Iglesias-Samitier S, Lopez Mahia P, Muneategui S, Pokovsky OS, Reski R, Rey-Asensio AI, Spangnuolo V, Tretiach M (2015)

Presented by Simonetta Giordano at the 7th BIOMAP, the 7th International Workshop on Biomonitoring of Atmospheric Pollution, Lisbon, Portugal, on 15 June 2015

study whole pdf-file

15 October 2015

Category: Oral Presentation

A novel biotechnological tool to monitor trace elements and PAHs based on a devitalized moss clone: The MossClone output

J. Aboal, P. Adamo, R. Bargagli, A.K. Beike, M. Bowkett, F. Capozzi, C. B. Carballeira, E. Concha-Grana, D. Crespo Pardo, E. L. Decker, A. Di Palma, J. A. Fernandez, V. Fernandez, S. Giordano, A. G. Gonzalez, S. Iglesias-Samitier, P. Lopez Mahia, S. Muniategui, P. Piñeiro-Iglesia, O. S. Pokrovsky, R. Reski, A. I. Rey-Asensio, V. Spagnuolo, M. Tretiach (2015).

Presented by Mauro Tretiach on 21 September 2015 at the Conference "Ecology at the Interface: Science-based solutions for Human well Being", Rome, Italy, which was organized by the European Ecological Federation (EEF) and the Società Italiana di Ecologia (S.It.E).

study whole pdf file

7 October 2015

Category: Publication

Cloned Sphagnum palustre are suitable for use in moss-bag technique: Test of metal and proton adsorption capacities

Researchers compared natural and cloned Sphagnum mosses for proton and metal (copper and zinc) adsorption capacities. As they demonstrated, metal adsorption capacity of mosses were related to DOC excreted by mosses. Cloned S. palustre has high specific surface area and metal adsorption capacities. Overall, in vitro-produced clones of S. palustre can be considered as an adequate, environmentally benign substitution for protected natural Sphagnum sp. samples to be used in moss-bags for atmospheric monitoring. The paper was published in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science.

J. Colloid Interface Sci.: doi: 10.1016/j.jcis.2015.09.012

10 July 2015

Category: Publication

Method of Biomonitoring Air-quality with Moss

Concha-Graña E, Muniategui-Lorenzo S, De Nicola F, Aboal JR, Rey-Asensio AI, Giordano S, Reski R, López-Mahía P, Prada-Rodrígueza D (2015):

Matrix solid phase dispersion method for determination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in moss.

Journal of Chromatography A. 1406: 19–26.

doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2015.06.014

7 July 2015

Category: In the Media

Mossphere permite medir la calidad del aire con un musgo

The Webiste of the University de la Rioja informs about the project, our Moss-Speres and offers a video "Mossphere permite medir la calidad del aire con un musgo: Desarrollado el primer instrumento biotecnológico que permite monitorizar la calidad del aire con un musgo."

Universidad de la Rioja: "Mossphere permite medir la calidad del aire con un musgo"

14 April 2015

Category: Newsletter

Sixth and Last Issue of the Newsletter

Images explain the two key studies carried out by this research consortium to overcome the problems associated with the traditional moss-bag technique to measure air pollution. The Newsletter also summarizes the outcome of the last two meetings of the consortium at A Coruña in Spain and at Naples in Italy. The EUNETAIR Workshop at Riga (Latvia) is also reported about in the Newsletter. The final presentation is documented in which the MOSSphere and the MOSSclone method are shown to be useful tools to monitor air pollution. Both are now patent-pending.

read more in the 6th Newsletter (pdf file, 4.5 MB)
6th Newsletter (print quality pdf file, 6.8 MB)

29 January 2015

Category: Event

Final Meeting: MOSSclone Production and Application of Moss to Monitor Air Pollution

From March 9th to 11th 2015 the final Meeting of the MOSSclone Group will take place in the Congress Center Unina Federico II in Naples, Italy. The first day is devoted on internal discussions among consortium members about achieved results and future perspectives. The second day focuses on overall outputs and achievements. The workshop on that day is open to non-consortium technical operators, small and medium enterprises, stakeholders as well as researchers and informs about MOSSclone production and application of biomonitoring of air pollution. Who intends to take part to the two meeting days and the field trip on the third day is invited to send the registration form back before 9th February 2015.

more Agenda (pdf)
to Registration form (Word file)

17 November 2014

Category: Publication

Culture techniques to propagate Sphagnum mosses for basic and applied research

We established axenic in vitro cultures of the five peat moss species (Sphagnum fimbriatum, S. magellanicum, S. palustre, S. rubellum and S. subnitens) with specific focus on large-scale cultivation of S. palustre in bioreactors. For advanced production of S. palustre we tested different cultivation techniques and analyzed the effects of tissue disruption. The techniques are a suitable, sustainable way to produce S. palustre material for basic and applied research.

Original paper:

Beike AK, Spagnuolo V, Lüth V, Steinhart F, Ramos-Gomez J, Krebs M, Adamo P, Rey-Asensio AI, Fernandez JA, Giordano S, Decker EL, Reski R (2014): Clonal in vitro propagation of peat mosses (Sphagnum L.) as novel green resources for basic and applied research. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture, DOI: 10.1007/s11240-014-0658-2

read more DOI: 10.1007/s11240-014-0658-2
view all publications

3 November 2014

Category: Newsletter

Fifth Issue

The agenda and results of the 3rd WP leaders’ meeting are summarized. Photos depict some scenes of the event which took place at the Italian Abano Terme on 19th and 20th of September 2014. The Newsletter also provides an overview of the achieved goals of the MOSSclone Research Consortium and the tasks which are still in progress or will be carried out in the near future. It closes with an exposure protocol of the moss bags as well with maps which display the locations of the 20 exposure sites distributed over two countries where the moss bags will be tested.

read more in the 5th Newsletter (pdf file, 5.2 MB)
5th Newsletter (interactive pdf file, 11.5 MB)

8 April 2014

Category: Newsletter

Forth Issue

The issue summarizes the results gained by the Consortium so far. It provides an overview and photos from the second working project leaders' meeting which took place at Santiago de Compostela in November. The results of the standardization of the moss bags in which the moss will be exposed to measure air quality are summarized: their mesh, shape, weight-surface ratios, the time of exposure as well as the optimal height for exposure. According to the recommendations drawn from the results mentioned samples of the cloned mosses are now simultaneously being exposed with traditional detectors in Spain and Italy.

read more in the 4th Newsletter (pdf file)
4th Newsletter (swf file: you will need the Adobe Flash Player)

5 December 2013

Category: Intranet

Images and Presentations from Meeting

The presentations and images from the second meeting of the WP leaders at Santiago de Compostela in November are available

2 December 2013

Category: In the Media

A Moss as Partner to Measure Air Contaminations

El Mundo, the largest digital Newspaper in Spain, reported about the MOSSclone project with the headline: "El musgo, un aliado para medir la contaminación atmosférica".

read article in El Mundo

2 December 2013

Category: In the Media

Spanish Video about Pioneer Work

A Spanish video of two minutes at the website of the Galician TV station Televisión de Galicia introduces the work of two of the European MOSSclone partners: Ana Isabel Rey Asensio talks about the part the Spanish Biovía company is taking care of and Prof. Simonetta Giordano explains what she and her group at the Italian University at Naples are contributing to the reach project's aims.  

see video at Televisión de Galicia

27 November 2013

Category: Event

2nd WP Leaders Meeting

On 29th and 30th of November 2013 the leaders of the working projects will meet in Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña (Spain). The event is organized by Ana I. Rey Asensio, Julia Ramos Gómez, Verónica Fernández González and Carlos B. Carballeira Braña.

see agenda (pdf, 6,3 MB)

4 November 2013

The peat moss Sphagnum palustre is being multiplied in bioreactors. Image: Ralf Reski

Category: Milestones

Cultivation of Single Moss Clones

The moss plants swimming in this bioreactor all derive from the spores of a single sporangium capsule of a single Spagnum palustre plant from northern Germany. The cultivation of single clones makes it needless to harvest specimens from the wild. Plants raised under this controlled laboratory conditions will provide the standardized raw material which is needed to detect pollutants in picogram quantities. In the tests by the MOSSclone research consortium the peat moss S. palustre had turned out to be the most suitable candidate to accumulate pollutants from the air and therefore was chosen to be multiplied.

19 October 2013

Category: Newsletter

Third Issue

Images and the agenda of the consortium's mid-term meeting at Freiburg (Germany) are provided in this newsletter. Moreover project manager Carlos Carballeira summarises main achievements of the research consortium as well as of the mid-term meeting which took place end of September. He reports that the species Sphagnum palustre was chosen to be cloned from now on after several species were tested. The next steps will be the up-scaling of the cultures. A map shows the locations where the samples were exposed to different types of air pollutions across Europe. The newsletter also compares native and cloned mosses and describes the tasks which are now in the focus of the research consortium. A list of media coverage rounds off this issue.

3rd Newsletter (pdf file)
3rd Newsletter (swf file: to be used with the Adobe Flash Player)

9 October 2013

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) hosted the MOSSclone Consortium at its mid-term meeting. Photo: MOSSclone (please click to enlarge)

Category: Intranet

Presentations from Meeting

The presentations from the mid-term meeting at Freiburg, Germany, which took place from 26th - 28th September 2013 are available in the Intranet

23 September 2013

Category: Press Release

Halftime for Mosses as Measuring Devices

Developing a new procedure to use moss as a sensor for the measurement of pollutants in the air: that is the aim of the "Mossclone" project which is being funded by the European Union (EU) as part of its Eco-Innovation Programme. After one and a half years the international research group run by Biologist Prof. Dr. Ralf Reski from the University of Freiburg/Germany has achieved the first milestone by preparing the lab-scale produced mosses to be cultivated in large bioreactors. A midterm review with all partners is being held at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) from 26th - 28th September 2013. The meeting will kick off with a talk by one of the Advisory Board members Dr. Harald Zechmeister on why moss is suitable for studying the effects of climate change. The Assistant Professor from the Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation and Landscape Ecology at the University of Vienna/Austria will illustrate how rises in temperature as well as in carbon dioxide and nitrogen affect moss colonies in the wild.

read more

6 June 2013

Category: In the media

Video Introduces People, Project and First Field Tests in 14 Languages

The first video reporting about the European research collaboration was made by the news channel Euronews. Dr. Eva Decker explains why mosses are good candidates to measure air pollution. The analysis of airborne heavy metals is unreliable and expensive up to now but required by law. Prof. Dr. Ralf Reski says in which way biotechnology helps to create standardized moss material  - a precondotion to reliably measure contaminations. The first prototypes of air-permeable moss bags are now in a practical test in Spain where Dr. Carlos Carballeira Braña shows in which way the tests are run to measure pollution from cars, other vehicles and industrial plants. Inspired by first results Prof. José Angel Fernández Escribano provides an overview about other places and ecosystems that could be monitored in the future as soon as this new technique is approved  - a technology which combines molecular biology and material sciences with ecology and bionics.

English video: Biotechnology to fight air pollution
French video: De la mousse pour piéger la pollution atmosphérique
German video: Moose sollen Luftqualität kontrollieren
Italian video: Muschio clonato, ecco il nuovo rilevatore di inquinamento
Spanish video: Musgo para detectar la contaminación del aire
other languages like Hungarian, Polish or Portuguese can be chosen on top of the Euronews website

16 April 2013

Category: Newsletter

Second Issue

A summary of the first WP leaders meeting at Naples, Italy, is given, which focused on the scientific activities of WP2. A summary of main achievements of the meeting is also provided and the concerns of the WP3 tool development are listed such as the criteria for identification and selection of exposure sites, the exposure protocols etc. A map illustrates the three sites distributed across Europe where the moss bags will be tested. The Newsletter finally lists recent, current, and upcoming tasks of the MOSSclone Research Consortium.

Newsletter (pdf file)
Newsletter (swf file: you will need the Adobe Flash Player)

2 March 2013

Category: Event

Midterm Meeting in September

The official MOSSclone Midterm Meeting will take place in Freiburg, Germany, September 26th-28th 2013. Hosts will be Ralf Reski and the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS:

6 February 2013

Category: Intranet

Presentations from Meeting

The presentations from the first meeting of the WP leaders at Naples, Italy, in February are available in the Intranet

1 October 2012

Category: Newsletter

First Issue

The objectives as well as recent, current, and upcoming research tasks of the MOSSclone consortium are presented. A short note informs about the first kick-off meeting of the experts working in five European countries (Spain, Italy, France, Ireland and Germany) and introduces the participating eleven institutions. A list of recent publications rounds of the first MOSSclone Newsletter.

Newsletter (pdf)

15 June 2012

Category: Intranet

Presentations from Meeting

The presentations from the Kick-off Meeting at the University de Santiago de Compostela (USC), Spain, in May are available in the Intranet

13 June 2012

Category: Research News

Sphagnum most suitable

The literature review of moss species revealed the most appropiate species belong to the genus Sphagnum.

via: Twitter

13 June 2012

Category: Intranet

Photos from Meeting

Images from the Kick-off Meeting at the University de Santiago de Compostela (USC), Spain, in May are available in the Intranet

11 June 2012

Category: Social Media

MOSSclone's Twitter site

The Mossclone project now has it's own site on Twitter:!/MOSSCLONE

8 June 2012

Category: In the media

MOSSclone in Spanish Media

Article in Spanish about the MOSSclone project in the Xornal de USC (University Santiago de Compostela). More articles about the project can be retrieved at from the outreach section.

24 May 2012

Category: Social Media

MOSSclone news on Twitter

News about the MOSSclone project will appear on Twitter via the account @ReskiLab. Since all messages will contain #Mossclone they will be easy to follow.

24 May 2012

Category: Social Media

MOSSclone on Facebook

An open Facebook group MOSSclone was founded.

23 April 2012

Category: Meeting


The first meeting of the researchers who are working in the consortium will take place from 10th to 11th May 2012 at the University de Santiago de Compostela (USC), Spain. They will outline basic procedures and define next steps of research.

3 April 2012

Category: Press Release

Moss detects Air Pollution

EU-Project will invent a new biotechnology in which peat moss will serve as a novel biological indicator.....


News & Events

Sixth and last MOSSclone
14th April 2015

all news

Social Media

Media Coverage

Video: people, project and first field tests - in 14 languages

The MOSSclone
project in the media

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