The lichen biodiversity census was the focus of a weeklong workshop that attracted professional and amateur taxonomists from 18 institutions in the U.S. and Canada as well as Puerto Rico, Peru and Austria, including resident biologists Rick and Jean Seavey who have been working on southwestern Florida lichens for years and maintain a website [http://www.seaveyfieldguides.com], and James Lendemer from the New York Botanical Garden who is conducting a survey of eastern North American lichens together with several colleagues.
Finding so many varieties of lichens was a function of the fact that there are lots of species at Fakahatchee and so many taxonomists were out looking, said Lcking. "Different people have different methods of looking," he said. "You can have several people working near each other and some individuals will find things that others overlook." One of the co-authors, Ralph Common, a particularly keen collector and microscopist, found seven species new to science in just a single genus of lichen.
The Florida workshop was one of several underwritten by the National Science Foundation in recent years. The goal is to increase knowledge of species before many go extinct. Scientists estimate that some 100,000 species of fungus, including 17,500 lichens, are known, but perhaps another million more exist, but are unknown to science.
Lichens can be useful as biosensors, helping to assess the overall health of a forest and aiding in land management planning. Some have also been used in perfumes, dyes and medications. Increasing human knowledge of them can have value beyond just basic science, Lcking said.
Earlier this year, Lcking worked with his Field Museum colleague Thorsten Lumbsch, in collaborating with 102 lichenologists from around the world to author a single scientific paper introducing 100 newly-discovered lichens to science, some of these originat
|Contact: Nancy O'Shea|