Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More than a century after the Gold Rush, mining an historical park’s lichen diversity

Date:
October 19, 2010
Source:
Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Summary:
Alaska may be staking out yet another claim to a natural treasure, but one which does not immediately meet the eye. Now, a team of researchers from Austria, Norway, Spain and the United States reports the highest diversity of lichens found anywhere on the North American continent from the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Example of a lichen -- a symbiosis between a fungus and an alga.
Credit: University of Graz

Alaska may be staking out yet another claim to a natural treasure, but one which does not immediately meet the eye. In article appearing in October in the journal The Bryologist, a team of researchers from Austria, Norway, Spain and the United States reports the highest diversity of lichens found anywhere on the North American continent from the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (KLGO).

Located at the headwaters of the longest fjord in southeast Alaska, an area of only 13,000 acres (53 square kilometers) harbors the highest number of lichens and associated fungi ever found in an area of comparable size: 766 species in two slivers of land along the 1898-99 Gold Rush trails out of Skagway and Dyea, Alaska.

While lichen surveys have been completed for only a few national parks in North America, the Klondike survey, funded by the U.S. National Park Service, is notable for edging out some much larger National Parks, including 300 more species than either Yellowstone, Glacier and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Indeed, the Klondike study has the ninth highest number of species of any lichen survey ever conducted worldwide in an area under 10,000 square kilometers.

Perhaps most surprisingly, however, fully seventy-five species -- nearly 10% of all species found -- are candidates for being new to science because they do not match any known species in a global literature review. Among the notable finds, the authors discovered a new genus of lichens with similarities to rock-dwelling genus Steinera in New Zealand and subantarctic islands. They name the genus Steineropsis, meaning 'looking like Steinera'. The authors describe another species, Coccotrema hahriae, in honor of Meg Hahr, the former natural resources program manager of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, who passed away last year. Altogether five new species for science are described in the current paper.

"This is like uncovering a biodiversity hotspot on the order of some of the lost forests in New Guinea or Mozambique," says the principal investigator, Toby Spribille, a Montana native and current graduate student at the University of Graz, Austria.

Spribille, together with his collaborators from the Spanish National Research Council, Madrid, and the University of Bergen, Norway, also highlight the significance of finding a biodiversity hotspot at high latitudes. "It's generally assumed biodiversity declines as you move towards the poles, but this has so far not been the case for lichens." He notes that lichens, which are a symbiosis between a fungus and an alga, have been shown to reach optimum growth conditions at cool temperatures and thus could be expected to peak in diversity in cool climates.

The Klondike study also includes a first-ever overview of top lichen biodiversity studies worldwide. This showed that all of the other top lichen inventories in the world to date have come from middle to high latitudes, unlike in many other organism groups, in which the highest diversity is typically in the tropics.

"This is important information to tie into climate change research," says Spribille. "The high latitudes are where the warming in the next century is expected to be the greatest, and while single species like the polar bear are considered threatened by the loss of arctic habitats, climate change is not usually getting translated into potential effects on large numbers of species." This view may begin to change, he predicts, as scientists discover that peak biodiversity for groups such as lichens may historically reside in the cool, damp forests and tundra of the north.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Toby Spribille, Sergio Pérez-Ortega, Tor Tønsberg, and Dave Schirokauer. Lichens and lichenicolous fungi of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, Alaska, in a global biodiversity context. The Bryologist, 2010; 113 (3): 439-515 DOI: 10.1639/0007-2745-113.3.439

Cite This Page:

Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. "More than a century after the Gold Rush, mining an historical park’s lichen diversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101018074534.htm>.
Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. (2010, October 19). More than a century after the Gold Rush, mining an historical park’s lichen diversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101018074534.htm
Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz. "More than a century after the Gold Rush, mining an historical park’s lichen diversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101018074534.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) — Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) — At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) — River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins