ISSN 1188-603X

No. 550 May 14, 2020 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, 1809 Penshurst, Victoria, BC, Canada V8N 2N6


From: Katie Willis

The rainforest fjords of southeastern Alaska harbour one of the highest concentrations of lichen diversity found anywhere on Earth, according to a new study spearheaded by University of Alberta scientists.

An international team of researchers led by University of Alberta biologist Toby Spribille found more than 900 species of lichen in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park, including 27 species never seen before.

"This level of novelty biodiversity is usually associated with 'lost valleys' in the tropics," said Spribille, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Symbiosis. "To find this in southeast Alaska speaks to how little we still know about coastal rainforests."

"There are so many new species to science that if you know what to look for, you can average one new species to science per day of fieldwork."

The researchers compared cumulative numbers of lichens in four national parks in southern Alaska and found that together, the parks contain more than 1,300 species.

The study authors said their work highlights the importance of understanding local biodiversity for nature conservation. Each national park is home to many species not found in the other parks.

Within Glacier Bay National Park, each fjord was different.

"Of 950 species, we found only 14 species common to all sectors of Glacier Bay," noted Spribille. "It makes you wonder what remains to be discovered in all the areas we couldn't get to."

The researchers said they hope the insights they gained from Glacier Bay National Park will show how important these protected areas are in providing habitat for lichens, adding that the study also raises the question of how many species may exist in other parts of the coastal rainforest ecosystem that aren't protected.

"At high latitudes, biodiversity is locked up in other groups of organisms—and in Alaska, lichens are clearly one of those groups," said Spribille. "This ecosystem is clearly very old and very diverse for some species groups. Each island and valley is different. As ecosystems go, it is definitely one that I'd label 'handle with care.'"

The research was funded by the National Park Service Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit in the United States in collaboration with the University of Montana, Michigan State University, and the University of Graz in Austria.

Here is a summary of the results:


From: Toby Spribille et al. 2020. The Lichenologist 52: 61–181. DOI:


Lichens are widely acknowledged to be a key component of high latitude ecosystems. However, the time investment needed for full inventories and the lack of taxonomic identification resources for crustose lichen and lichenicolous fungal diversity have hampered efforts to fully gauge the depth of species richness in these ecosystems. Using a combination of classical field inventory and extensive deployment of chemical and molecular analysis, we assessed the diversity of lichens and associated fungi in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (USA), a mixed landscape of coastal boreal rainforest and early successional low elevation habitats deglaciated after the Little Ice Age. We collected nearly 5000 specimens and found a total of 947 taxa, including 831 taxa of lichen-forming and 96 taxa of lichenicolous fungi together with 20 taxa of saprotrophic fungi typically included in lichen studies.

A total of 98 species (10.3% of those detected) could not be assigned to known species and of those, two genera and 27 species are described here as new to science:

Atrophysma cyanomelanos gen. et sp. nov., Bacidina circumpulla, Biatora marmorea, Carneothele sphagnicola gen. et sp. nov., Cirrenalia lichenicola, Corticifraga nephromatis, Fuscidea muskeg, Fuscopannaria dillmaniae, Halecania athallina, Hydropunctaria alaskana, Lambiella aliphatica, Lecania hydrophobica, Lecanora viridipruinosa, Lecidea griseomarginata, L. streveleri, Miriquidica gyrizans, Niesslia peltigerae, Ochrolechia cooperi, Placynthium glaciale, Porpidia seakensis, Rhizocarpon haidense, Sagiolechia phaeospora, Sclerococcum fissurinae, Spilonema maritimum, Thelocarpon immersum, Toensbergia blastidiata and Xenonectriella nephromatis. An additional 71 'known unknown' species are cursorily described. Four new combinations are made: Lepra subvelata (G. K. Merr.) T. Sprib., Ochrolechia minuta (Degel.) T. Sprib., Steineropsis laceratula (Hue) T. Sprib. & Ekman and Toensbergia geminipara (Th. Fr.) T. Sprib. & Resl.

Thirty-eight taxa are new to North America and 93 additional taxa new to Alaska.

We use four to eight DNA loci to validate the placement of ten of the new species in the orders Baeomycetales, Ostropales, Lecanorales, Peltigerales, Pertusariales and the broader class Lecanoromycetes with maximum likelihood analyses. We present a total of 280 new fungal DNA sequences. The lichen inventory from Glacier Bay National Park represents the second largest number of lichens and associated fungi documented from an area of comparable size and the largest to date in North America. Coming from almost 60°N, these results again underline the potential for high lichen diversity in high latitude ecosystems.

For more on this project, logistics of the fieldwork, & vegetation dynamics of the Glacier Bay see:


From: Tichý L. & Chytrý M. 2019. Probabilistic for key identifying vegetation types in the field: A new method and Android application. J Veg Sci. 2019;30:1035–1038.

Abstract Quick identification of vegetation types in the field, based on species composition but not requiring time-consuming plot sampling, is often needed for vegetation mapping, conservation assessment, teaching and other applications of vegetation classification. Here, we propose a new method that identifies the probability of be- longing to the units of an established vegetation classification for vegetation stands encountered in the field. The method is based on calculating the probability that a few species observed in the field would co-occur in a priori defined vegetation types, using the existing information on species occurrence frequency in these types. The method has been implemented in a freely available Android application called Probabilistic Vegetation Key, which makes it possible to employ it in the field using smartphones or tablets, even in the absence of internet access.

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