Southwest Alaska Network Lichen Inventory

Driftwood lichens
Documenting coastal driftwood lichens at Chinitna Bay, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

NPS Photo: J. Walton

Lichens are an important component of biological diversity and are sensitive indicators of air quality and climate. Despite their ecological importance in southwest Alaska, there is a general lack of information regarding lichen occurrence. To address this information need, the SWAN partnered with Oregon State University (OSU) to conduct a lichen inventory of its three parks: Katmai National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Kenai Fjords National Park.

Under the guidance of OSU and the NPS, a team of lichenologists from North America and Europe conducted fieldwork during the 2013-2016 summer seasons. They surveyed sites throughout each park that were selected by NPS botanists to span a range of lichen-rich habitats, including coastal rock outcrops and forests; large interior lake, river, and forest systems; and interior and coastal alpine zones.

To date, at least 14 species have been discovered that are new to science, 7 species are new to North America, and 14 species are new to the state of Alaska. Twelve peer-reviewed journal articles and one master’s thesis have been published using inventory findings. Other products include two manuscripts (in progress) that discuss the biodiversity and ecology of SWAN’s lichen communities through an annotated voucher-based lichen species list and accompanying database for each of the three parks. Specimens collected during the course of the inventory will be provided on loan to the University of Alaska, Museum of the North Herbarium and several other institutions, where they will be available for research and educational purposes.

KEFJ Nuka Bay lichen team

NPS Photo: J. Walton

Last updated: April 2, 2018