Michael Stech

Michael Stech

My research focuses on bryophyte systematics and 'hidden biodiversity'. I study evolutionary relationships and species delimitation of bryophytes, from tropical forests to polar tundras. I am interested in unravelling the hidden biodiversity of bryophytes and lichens, soil bacteria and fungi, and airborne biological particles, in natural and urban ecosystems.  


Bryophytes, DNA (meta)barcoding, phylogenetics, soil biodiversity, urban biodiversity

Dr. M (Michael) Stech

Understanding Evolution

+31 (0)71 751 9219


I use an integrative taxonomic approach to study the evolution and diversity of bryophytes, and contribute to comparative biodiversity assessments and genetic biomonitoring.

Main research topics:

  • I study systematic relationships and character evolution, mainly in the Dicranidae, one of the two largest lineages of mosses (ca. 4000 species). 
  • I clarify species delimitations and improve species identification of bryophytes by DNA barcoding, to assess and monitor biodiversity. Examples are bipolar bryophyte species and the Dutch bryoflora.
  • I contribute to species inventories, unravelling soil and airborne biodiversity by DNA metabarcoding, and analyses of spatial biodiversity patterns. Examples are Atlantic island bryophytes and Antarctic biodiversity. 
  • I lead the interdisciplinary HiddenBiodiversity project, which studies urban biodiversity in Dutch cities; for more information see




Fieldwork in East Greenland
Arctic tundra bryophytes


  • Mota de Oliveira, S., Duijm, E., Stech, M., Ruijgrok,  J., Polling, M., Barbosa, C.G.G., Cerqueira, G.R., Nascimento, A.H.M., Godoi, R.H.M., Taylor, P.E., Wolf, S., Weber, B., Kesselmeier, J. 2022. Life is in the air: An expedition into the Amazonian atmosphere. Front. Ecol. Evol. 789791.
  • Bonfim Santos, M., Fedosov, V., Hartman, T., Fedorova, A., Siebel, H., Stech, M. 2021. Phylogenetic inferences reveal deep polyphyly of Aongstroemiaceae and Dicranellaceae within the haplolepideous mosses (Dicranidae, Bryophyta). Taxon 70(2): 246–262.
  • Rosa, L.H., da Silva, T.H., Ogaki, M.B., Pinto, O.H.B., Stech, M., Convey, P., Carvalho-Silva, M., Rosa, C.A., Câmara, P.E.A.S. 2020. DNA metabarcoding uncovers fungal diversity in soils of protected and non-protected areas on Deception Island, Antarctica. Sci. Rep. 10: 21986.
  • Biersma E.M., Jackson J.A., Stech M., Griffiths H., Linse K., Convey P. 2018. Long-term in situ Antarctic Persistence within Antarctica’s Most Speciose Plant Genus, Schistidium. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 6: 77.
  • Gama R., Aguirre-Gutiérrez J., Stech M. 2017. Ecological niche comparison and molecular phylogeny segregate the invasive moss species Campylopus introflexus (Leucobryaceae, Bryophyta) from its closest relatives. Ecology and Evolution 7: 8017–8031.
  • Sim-Sim M., Afonina O.M., Almeida T., Désamoré A., Laenen B., Garcia C.A., González-Mancebo J.M., Stech, M. 2017. Integrative taxonomy reveals too extensive lumping and a new species in the moss genus Amphidium (Bryophyta). Systematics and Biodiversity 15: 451–463.
  • Lang A., Bocksberger G., Stech M. 2015. Phylogeny and species delimitations in European Dicranum (Dicranaceae, Bryophyta). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 92: 217–225.
  • Stech M., Veldman S., Larraín J., Muñoz J., Quandt D., Hassel K., Kruijer J.D. 2013. Molecular species delimitation in the Racomitrium canescens complex (Grimmiaceae) and implications for DNA barcoding of species complexes in mosses. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53134.

All publications


Naturalis aims to be a breeding ground for international scientific talent. Therefore, PhD's have a special position in our organisation.

  • Tim Claerhout
  • Sjoerd Gremmen
  • Marina Bonfim Santos
  • Eka Iskandar
  • Soraia Martins (external)
Tree trunk in Leiden, covered with Xanthoria parietina


  • Coordinator of B.Sc. first years course ‘Tree of Life, Biodiversity of Plants, Protists, Fungi’
  • B.Sc. first years course ‘Flora and Fauna’ (field excursions and determination practice of the Dutch flora)
  • B.Sc. third years Minor ‘Biodiversity’, Module ‘Scales of biodiversity’, part 'Hidden Biodiversity'
  • B.Sc. Honors class ‘Crises in Biology’ (lecture)
  • Supervising B.Sc., M.Sc. and HBO (Universities of Applied Sciences) students