Colleague James Lendemer and I landed in the mtns of north Georgia late last night – 3 January 2019. Today, the 4th, despite torrential rains throughout the day today, we managed to finish “Master Plot 105”… that marks our 105th 1-hectare lichen inventory plot on this NSF-funded “Dimensions of Biodiversity” research grant that seeks to understand the causes and correlates of abiotic and biotic factors that limit (or facilitate… are you an optimist? I mean, why not be?) the distributions of biodiversity. We feel we are making good progress… standby for results!
What are we doing with those sterile (kosher!) toothbrushes and 4×4 teal windows (affectionately, our “dingo”)? Scrubbing rocks and trees and sampling their ‘dust’, effectively capturing lichen spores/propagules present in the environment, sequencing these samples, and attempting to thereby detect the presence or absence of all the symbionts in a given 1-ha plot. In other words: if lichen species A isn’t present at a site, is it because the site is lacking one or more of its obligate symbiotic partners? Hence the biotic constraints that limit (or facilitate) the distributions of biodiversity…
Need to see a titillating video of how these samples get processed? https://youtu.be/vpoEc0unBBM
(Our ever present traveling laboratory prior to the processing of our first collection…. up early at 3:30am to get started… look how clean it is!! … not for long!)
In the Jocassee Gorges to our east, Whitewater Gorge specifically received an excess of 130 inches of rain as of the closing of 2018. Those gorges are home to more populations of filmy ferns than all other counties in the USA combined. And people question the legitimacy of the southern Apps as a temperate rainforest! Lucy Braun dubbed these forests the climax of the eastern temperate hardwood forest for a reason.
We concur. And marvel at the many unknowns… the many mysteries… still to discover in this temperate wonderland..