Inflight bryophytes

Plants like mosses could have wonderful impact in extreme environments. Aside from their potential to produce cheap and environmentally friendly electricity, they offer other benefits. 

Illustrated on the quite extreme setting of aircraft cabins, mosses would improve air quality due to lowered carbon dioxide levels, increase humidity due to “plant sweating”, and - crucially - provide a visually and tangibly calming experience.


You might wonder about the aircraft cabin. Fact is, it’s a small enclosed space most densely packed with people over a prolonged period of time. And airlines don’t exactly give us the best quality air, because it’s expensive to split ozone into oxygen and provide passengers with clean, fresh air at high altitudes.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that the so-called Environmental Control Systems of aircraft, which manage air flow, are primarily designed to keep us alive. Nonetheless, the suboptimal air quality on board can give many of us quite literally a headache. 

The main issues are increased carbon dioxide levels and extreme dryness (these have been thoroughly researched and documented). Furthermore, many passengers suffer from flight anxiety. So you can see how a bit of moss could make a big difference.


Illustrations: Fabienne Felder, 2012

Further reading:

Hocking, M.B. (2002) ‘Trends in Cabin Air Quality of Commercial Aircraft: Industry and Passenger Perspectives’, Reviews on Environmental Health; Vol. 17, No. 1

Hunt, E.H. (1995) ‘Commercial Airliner Environmental Control System - Engineering Aspects of Cabin Air Quality’, presented at the Aerospace Medical Association annual meeting, Anaheim, California, May 1995

Lindgren, T and Norbäck, D. (2002) ‘Cabin air quality: indoor pollutants and climate during intercontinental flights with and without tobacco smoking, Indoor Air; 12: 263–272

Lindgren, T. (2007) ‘Perception of cabin air quality in airline crew related to air humidification on intercontinental flights’, Indoor Air; 17: 204–210