Monitoring Air Quality using Moss


MOSSclone is the brief name for the research consortium working in the project entitled "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". The research consortium consists of five academic partners and five small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The partners of MOSSclone are situated in Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Ireland.

Aims and Objectives

The researchers strive to develop a novel, precise and inexpensive method to monitor air contamination, especially by heavy metals. One foreseen innovation in MOSSclone is the cultivation of huge amounts of a peat moss under controlled laboratory conditions. Subsequently, these moss plants will be inactivated and the surface structures will be transferred to air-permeable bags under fabrication conditions. These moss-bags will be displayed in monitoring stations at a variety of different European locations and be assessed with regard to their capability to accumulate pollutants from the air.


In 1996 the European Union demands its member states to monitor air pollution continuously. This regulation was even strengthened in 2008. Since then not only nitrogen and sulphur oxides have to be monitored but also heavy metals like cadmium, lead and nickel.

Why Mosses?

Living plants are already in use as biological indicators as they take up and accumulate pollutants. Mosses are especially well suited as bio-indicators for airborne pollution as they have no roots and a very high surface-to-mass ratio.

Research Programme

In order to successfully finish this research project some aspects must be achieved:

  • Selection and culture of an appropriate moss clone
  • Characterization of the clone which will be cultivated in molecular, physical, chemical and multi-elemental terms
  • Large-scale production of moss-bags for transplants
  • To validate the new tool the data collected with moss-bags will be compared with data gathered with traditional techniques (i.e. bulk deposition collectors, particles samplers and gaseous samplers)
  • Development of a protocol for a standardized use of the moss-bags as pollution sensors
  • Development of a method for identification of pollution focus


The scientists hope that their moss-bags will be used in the whole of Europe as monitors for environmental pollution in the near future.


The researchers are funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (FR7) grant of the European Commission (EC). The consortium has been granted 3.5 million Euro for three years by the EU within their initiative “Eco-Innovations!”. The five small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of the consortium will contribute another approx. one million Euro from their own resources to this project.


The project started in April 2012. Funding will be finished in March 2015.

News & Events

Sixth and last MOSSclone
14th April 2015

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

The MOSSclone
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