Lichen biodiversity studies are in general at least 100 years, if not 200 years, behind that of plant and animal inventories. This is true even within 500 miles of the nation’s capital, in our country’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prior to inventory efforts of GSMNP by Erin Tripp and colleague James Lendemer (New York Botanical Garden), the lichen biota was believed to be 90-99% known, consisting of ~460 species. Over the course of a half-decade of fieldwork there, we have doubled the number of known species, thus calling into question just how well known are our ‘best known’ biotas in the United States (Tripp & Lendemer 2012; Lendemer et al. 2013).
Tripp and Lendemer are continuing inventory efforts in GSMNP in order to fully document species ranges and ecologies as well as to produce a fully illustrated color field guide to the most lichenologically diverse national park in the United States (Tripp & Lendemer, forthcoming).
More recently, Tripp and colleagues have begun a lichen inventory of the Southern Rocky Mountains – a historically neglected but incredibly rich biota, and one with most intriguing biogeographical connections to numerous corners of the Earth.
A few selected publications resulting from recent lichen efforts:
Tripp, E.A. and J.C. Lendemer. 2012. Not too late for American biodiversity? New discoveries give hope for mitigation of an extinction epidemic and call for increased inventory and protection of biodiversity in our backyards. BioScience 62: 218-219.
Lendemer, J.C., R.C. Harris, and E.A. Tripp. 2013. Lichens and lichenicolous fungi of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, 260 p.
Lendemer, J.C., E.A. Tripp, and J. Sheard. 2014. Review of Rinodina Ach. in the Great Smoky Mountains highlights the significance of this “island of biodiversity” in North America. The Bryologist 117: 259-281.
A couple of news articles: