Welcome to the newest segment of the Save the Uglies articles: Endangered Mushrooms with Julian “Da Fun-GI” Jensen
The Boreal Felt Lichen is a critically endangered species of lichen that is only found in two areas in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland, and in a small forest in Nova Scotia. It is a leafy species of lichen that can be found on the trunks of certain trees. It changes colors based on it’s level of hydration, ie. if it is filled with water, it is blue and grey, when it is dehydrated, it is purple and gray. The Boreal Felt Lichen is typically 3 to 5 centimeters in diameter. It used to have a much larger range, spanning across a large amount of Canada and most Scandinavian countries. This lichen has the nickname of “the panda bear of lichens” because of how hard it is to find this species in the wild. Newfoundlanders have a good chance of seeing one, as the Boreal Felt Lichen population is around 10, 000. But if you are in Nova Scotia, don’t even try to look for one. You have a better chance at catching a leprechaun as there is only about an estimated 100 individuals left in all of Nova Scotia. They are extremely vulnerable to habitat interference such as deforestation and pollution, which is why they are now extinct in Europe except for one small controlled population in Norway. The Boreal Felt Lichen population has decreased 35% over the past 10 years, and is predicted to reduce by another 50% by the year 2040.
FUNGAL FUN FACT
For those of you who don’t know much about lichens, they are different from other fungal species in that they are actually two organisms, a fungi and an algae, working together in a symbiotic relationship. In the Boreal Felt Lichen, the algae along with cynobacteria take care of the photosynthesis part, and provide the fungal part with food, while the fungal part provides the algae with a safe habitat and area to live on and complete it’s photosynthesis processes. The Lichen also receives nitrogen through the air using nitrogen fixation, although part of the reason for their decline is the lack of nitrogen in Atlantic Canadian Forests.
Many attempts have been made to preserve this ancient and critically endangered species. Most notably in the late 1900s when Sweden tried to preserve their last population of the Boreal Felt Lichen. They fenced off the small area of woodland with the elusive lichen still left on a few of the trees. They made those woodlands unaccsesible to the public, cutting out all human interference. They thought this would for sure work, but humans still found a way to kill off the population. Neighboring the fenced off area, a vast amount of land was Private Property owned by a Swedish guy. The owner of the land decided to clear cut the trees so he could start the development of the land. After clearcutting the neighboring land, the microclimate of the land changed. Nothing major, but slight changes in the amount of nitrogen and carbon levels in the air occurred in the fenced off area. Many species could have withstanded this slight change, but the Boreal Felt lichen has very low resistance, and can only survive under specific climate conditions. The slight change in the chemicals in the air was enough to wipe out the population in the protected area. The Boreal Felt lichen is protected in Canada under the Species at Risk Act, and Worldwide under the Endangered Species Act.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Donate to the following organizations to help protect the Boreal Felt Lichen and it’s habitat…
The Canadian Wildlife Federation
Stewarding Canadian Species at Risk Act.
IUCN red list
Thank you for reading. Da Fun-Gi signing off. See you next month my fungal friends.