Mar 8

Boreal felt lichen (Erioderma pedicellatum)

Species: Boreal felt lichen (Erioderma pedicellatum)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The boreal felt lichen is known as the ‘panda bear’ of lichens because of its extreme rarity.

The boreal felt lichen is a ‘leafy’ species that grows on the branches and trunks of trees. When hydrated, it has a bluish-grey colour, but when dry it is darker grey-brown. The edges of this lichen typically curl up to expose whitish undersides.

The boreal lichen consists of two different organisms, a ‘mycobiont’ (a fungus) and a ‘phycobiont’ (a cyanobacterium – a bacterium that can photosynthesise), which live together in a symbiotic association.  The presence of the cyanobacteria makes the boreal felt lichen particularly sensitive to atmospheric pollution such as acid rain.

The boreal felt lichen was formerly known from Norway, Sweden, and Canada. Today, the species is thought to be restricted to two disjunct populations: a boreal population on Newfoundland, and a vastly depleted Atlantic population on Nova Scotia. The remaining populations are found in cool, moist, old-growth coniferous forests, and grow predominately on the trunks of balsam fir (Abies balsamea).

In addition to being highly sensitive to atmospheric pollutants such as acid rain, the boreal felt lichen is extremely vulnerable to habitat loss. Logging and air pollution have contributed towards a decline of more than 90% of the Atlantic population.

The Atlantic population of the boreal felt lichen is protected in Canada under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), and is the focus of an ongoing recovery strategy. Crucially, efforts are being made, through land purchases and agreements with landowners, to formally protect areas of forest that are home to this rare species. Furthermore, conservationists are engaging with private and government forest managers to encourage their participation in the mapping of boreal felt lichen habitats and the implementation of management plans that will prevent further habitat loss.

Find out more about the boreal felt lichen at the Government of Canada Species at Risk Public Registry.

See images of the boreal felt lichen on ARKive.

Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author.