As descendants of the early land plants, bryophytes have retained the ability to adapt to a variety of habitats and environments. They live as understory components on the ground or as epiphytes in forests worldwide, but flourish most luxuriantly in moist warm‐temperate and tropical habitats. Many of the liverworts and some species of moss are pioneers on newly burned ground while still other mosses colonize bare rock surfaces where their presence accelerates the erosion of rock to soil. The few desert dwellers rely on the condensation of dew on their surfaces to supply their metabolic water needs. In these sites, production of sporophytes is rare and the species spread primarily by vegetative means.
Mosses and liverworts are prominent in the arctic tundra on bare, dry surfaces while farther south in the circumpolar boreal conifer forest (taiga) and its southern extensions, the northern conifer forests, mosses constitute most of the biomass of the bogs and wet understory of the trees.