If you seek America's most diverse, densely packed human population, head for New York's Manhattan, but if it's lichens you fancy instead of people, then Southwestern Florida is your best bet.
This special kind of symbiotic fungus thrives in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park not far from the Everglades National Park, and its remarkable diversity was documented in a census led by Robert Lcking, collections manager and adjunct curator in the botany department of The Field Museum, Chicago, and organized by William Safranek, assistant professor at the College of Medicine, University of Central Florida. Lcking's team of 19 taxonomists and graduate students, accompanied by several park personnel including park biologist Mike Owen, documented 432 different lichens within one square kilometer of Fakahatchee, including 18 never before identified by scientists and nearly 100 previously not known from North America.
This appears to be more lichen biodiversity in a relatively small space than anywhere else in North America, Lcking said. Only eight parks in North America have a higher number of species reported, but corresponding to a much larger area actually sampled. And many more species are to be expected when continuing the survey at Fakahatchee. The discovery, published in the Florida Museum of Natural History Bulletin, marks the latest effort by Field Museum scientists and their colleagues to raise the profile of lichens and add to knowledge about them.
Composite organisms consisting of a fungus and a green alga or some other photosynthetic partner, lichens thrive all over the world, from the frozen Arctic to rocky coasts and dry deserts. But their favored environment in terms of species richness is tropical rain forest, and Fakahatchee (which in the Seminole Indian language roughly means "muddy creek") seems to be the ideal spot for them in the United States. This also applies to other tropical organisms, such as epiphytic orchids and bro
|Contact: Nancy O'Shea|