Mosses, ferns and horsetail are all part of the Kingdom, Plantae. While Mosses are non-vascular plants, Ferns and Horsetail are vascular. The common theme linking them all are the fact that they are all seedless, what with their utilization of asexual and sexual reproduction, through the use of spores, and water.
Kingdom: Plantae Phylum: Bryophyta Approximately 12,000 species of moss exist. Mosses are non-vascular, small, flowerless plants that typically grow in dense green clumps or mats, often in damp or shady locations. Mosses are small, herbaceous plants that absorb water and nutrients mainly through their "leaves" or rhizoids.. They cannot grow too much, as per the need to stay close to water flowing on the ground for absorption, and sexual reproduction. They can reproduce asexually, or sexually. The phylum Bryophyta (mosses) is part of a group called Byrophytes, which consists of two other Phyla, Anthoceraphyta (Hornworts) and Hepaticophyta (Liverworts). These are the Bryophyta's closest relatives. Bryophytes require water to reproduce sexually, produce spores rather than seeds and lack the vascular tissue found in ferns and “higher” plants. What separates the mosses from the hornworts and liverworts, is extremely specific. The differences are constituted by minute distinctions. Linked below, is a great, comprehensive key outlining the differences between mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. These include the appearance of the sporophytes, thickness of thallose, alignment of leaves, and more.
Ferns are the first true land plants that evolved to have vascular tissue. They have tracheids (a basic vascular system, hence the phylum name). This provides them the ability to carry nutrients from photosynthesis and water from their rhizomes. Ferns have 3 major parts – the rhizome, the fronds and the reproductive structures called sporangia. They reproduce via spores, instead of seeds, and are the only branch of plants that are vascular, yet seedless. They have branched stems, and leaves, unlike mosses, which are called fronds, and is the photosynthetic part of the plant. While the roots look very similar to seeded plants, the gametophyte is much like mosses, what with an antheridia that produces sperm, an archegona that produces eggs, and rhizoids which anchor these to the soil, and absorb water. They prefer a cooler temperature, and higher humidity, and can be found in the shade of dense canopies. Various species of ferns have adapted to varying levels of sunlight. The term "Fern" encompasses a massive group. or more specifically, a phylum, and so their closest relatives are all seeded plants, as vascularity is the common theme shared by ferns and seeded plants. What separates them, is as previously mentioned, the method of reproduction, be it utilizing spores or seeds.Ferns are also (relatively) delicate plants that only grow in areas where there are suitably moist conditions. They favour sheltered areas under the forest canopy, along creeks and streams and other sources of permanent moisture. They cannot grow readily in hot dry areas like flowering plants and conifers.
Horsetails fall under the division of ferns, they are a type of fern. Much of what is a fern has already been delved into, so to keep it brief it is indeed a vascular, seedless plant that utilizes spores. Horsetail grows in or near watery areas such as marshes, streams, or rivers. It is found in temperate climates and flourishes where it can root in water or soil. Interestingly, the genus Equisetum, is a "living fossil" as it is the only surviving genus of the entire Equisetopsida class, which was extremely abundant during the Paleozoic period, and had species that grew up to 30 meters tall. Physically, in Horsetails, the leaves are greatly reduced and usually non-photosynthetic, hence their preference for damper, darker spots near streams. They have a non branching vascular bundle, and the stems are usually photosynthetic. The spores, like most ferns are born at the sporangiophores, at the tips of the plant. All Horsetails are distinct in appearance from other ferns, lacking leaves, or fronds, and so are very easy to distinguish as a horsetail. Their closest relatives, technically are the class Psilotopsida, which consists of whisk-ferns and grape-ferns. The reason these ferns are the closest relatives is because they all are part of the larger classification known as Eusporangiate ferns. Eusporangiate ferns are vascular spore plants, whose sporangia arise from several epidermal cells and not from a single cell as in leptosporangiate ferns. Horsetail differs from these close relatives because of its cone bearing shoots that appear at the end of the stems (the strobili).
Mosses are crucial to the natural ecosystem, for their retention of water and humidity, which stabilizes their environment. They help to control flooding, and keep the soil fertile. In addition, they provide most of the nitrogen fixation in the ecosystems they are in. They can retain nitrogen, and othe rnutrients, then release it into the environment, "upon disturbances like drying-rewetting and fire events." They are extremely resilient and can grow in many damp and dark places, while some have even evolved to survive with more sunlight. They can be found even in cities, within the cracks of sidewalk, and can even survive months of dryness, then return to life after just a few hours of re-hydration. Mosses provide shelter and humidity for a large diversity of invertebrates, which sustains the food chain, but other than that, their only other role in the food web is to provide foods for herbivores. Moss practices a widespread form of commensalism, typically growing on other living creatures such as trees. The trees are not affected, but the moss benefits from being higher up, away from herbivores, and in some cases closer to the sunlight, to practice photosynthesis. In the modern world, the economic uses of moss can become extremely apparent. In the past, mosses were used as an easily obtainable and multi-purpose packaging material. Wads of mosses were used to line pits, probably for the storage of vegetables, and also as stuffing for bedding. They were used to trap humidity and heat, in cold environments, and kept in clothing as insulation. Historically, moss has been used to pack the walls of Victorian era chimneys, to keep heat in, and keep wind out. It has been used for its fluid retention by way of diapers, by the indigenous peoples of North America, and is a staple in Japanese gardens as a part of the natural aesthetic. Moss has been, is, and will be used extensively in home decoration, from the lining of potted plants, to more recently on the rooftops if homes, in an attempt at a more environmentally friendly city-scape. Economically, the most important mosses are Sphagna, the bog-mosses. The dead remains of Sphagna are the main constituent of the peat. Peat has multiple uses in the global economy, such as being one of the most widespread sources of fuel, being the most efficient carbon sink in the world (peatbogs, that is), and for cooking and domestic heating. It is also the first step in the process that formed fossil fuels, and covers 2-3% of the Earth's surface. If all mosses were taken out of the Byrne Creek ecosystem, the environmental results would be profound. Water retention amiss, groundwater would pile up, and with the massive carbon sink that moss is, the atmosphere would be affected,as well as air quality. It would affect the resilience of the Boreal ecosystem, because of the role of moss in regulating coil climate and biochemical recycling. Multiple studies have also found that a lack of moss resukted in deeper forest fire burning due to the loss of moisture. Many invertebrates' habitats would be lost. Most importantly, with the loss of nitrogen fixation, plants would be hardpressed to grow efficiently and healthily.
Fern species live in a variety of environments, from remote mountain elevations, to dry desert rock faces, to bodies of water or in open fields. They often succeed in marginal places, where the environmental factors do not allow for flowering plants to grow. However they tend to grow in moist, shady forests. As for their role in the ecosystem, and the food chain, they help to provide a home for many invertebrates. The spores are also rich in lipids, protein, and calories, so some vertebrates eat them. Ultimately, they remain a source of energy for herbivores and omnivores. Ferns typically tend to strictly stick to their evolutionary prescribed niches. For example a species of fern evolved to grow near waterfalls, will almost always grow near waterfalls, and if they don't it will be hard to reproduce. Because of this, identifying a fern, can tell one a lot of the environment they are currently in. Ferns have an important and subtle role, both in water retention and stabilizng hills and soily surfaces. They also filter toxins, and serve as a bio-indicator for toxic chemicals in the ecosystem. As for symbiotic relationships that they provide, some aquatic ferns live in symbiosis with bacteria that convert atmospheric nitrogen into compounds. There are also multiple mutualistic relationships between fungi and the roots of ferns. Ferns can be used for food, are often used for decoration, have been found to be useful in the removal of heavy metals from soil, and some ferns such as the tree fern have even been used as a building material. Below, is possibly the most cinematic, grandeur piece of film on the life cycle of ferns, that will possibly ever be made. If all ferns were taken out of the Byrne Creek ecosystem, it would lose a majority of the toxin filtering in the forest, which could be potentially dangerous. It would also lose soil stabilization, and water retention. Most importantly, the habitats of many vertebrates and invertebrates would be gone.
Horsetails are known for their chemical diversity. They contain high levels of silica, magnesium, potassium, multiple flavonoids, alkaloids (including traces of nicotene in some cases), saponins, and various other minerals. Due to this, Horsetails are widely used medicinally. They've been used historically as herbs, and are even crucial parts of some drugs to this day. It was used as a remedy for myriad conditions, including anemia, bleeding, depression, coughing, stomach ulcers, urinary problems, wound and bone healing, tuberculosis, and many more. Horsetail has a history of claimants claiming it to remedy various "ailments" such as hair loss. It can be used as a dye, a polish, and is actually poisonous in semi-large quantities to some grazing animals, such as ironically, the horse. They are also important to aquatic ecosystems. The submerged portions of the stems provide habitats for numerous small organisms, and the detritus from decaying plants provides a food source for these organisms. Other than that, their niche isn't large, and they don't do much else for the environment. They can actually be a dangerous invasive species due to their strong roots, and fast growing capability, coupled with their toxic features. Some horsetails have been found to have parasitic relationships with ants, and mutual ones with fungi. If the Byrne Creek ecosystem were to lose Horsetail, the environment would barely be affected. If it were another ecosystem, the alterations could be drastic, but the Byrne Creek ecosystem has very, very little abundance of Horsetail.