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The Lichens of British Columbia Illustrated Keys Part 1 - Foliose and Squamulose Species

Author(s) or contact(s): T. Goward, B. McCune, and D.V. Meidinger
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Botany
Series: Special Report Series
Other details:  Published 1994. Hardcopy is available.


Approximately 1100 species of lichens have been reported to occur in British Columbia (B.C.). Although this figure may appear impressive, lichens are among the most poorly documented elements of the province's macroscopic flora. Judging from the rate at which new species are being added to the lichen flora, it seems likely that hundreds of additional lichens await discovery in this province. Moreover, our understanding of the frequency status of the vast majority of species remains dolefully incomplete.

To date, comprehensive lichen studies have been conducted in only two regions of the province: the Queen Charlotte Islands and south-east Vancouver Island. The macrolichen flora of Wells Gray Park is also reasonably well documented. Most of the remainder of the province has received scant attention. Important collections have been made in the regions indicated in Figure 1 (In PDF file), but most of these studies are unpublished and the specimens are now scattered in various herbaria.

A major impediment to the study of lichens in British Columbia is the lack of comprehensive keys to the species. This manual helps to correct this situation by providing illustrated keys to all "leaf" and "scale" (foliose and squamulose) lichens known to occur in the province. In total, 327 species are included, while 19 taxa are excluded from earlier accounts of the flora. Future volumes in this series will provide keys to the fruticose and crustose species.

This manual has two primary objectives. The first is to stimulate lichenological research by making the province's lichens accessible to as broad an audience as possible. To this end, the keys are tailored primarily to the needs and resources of ecologists, biologists, naturalists, teachers and other non-lichenologists wishing to identify lichens. These users can be assumed: (1) to lack access to thin-layer chromatography (TLC) facilities, as well as to various chemical reagents, ultraviolet lamps, light microscopes and/or other apparatus of detailed lichen identification; (2) to be reluctant to handle unnecessary technical jargon; and (3) to be unfamiliar with basic lichen taxonomy. Based on these assumptions, the keys in this manual:
- emphasize morphological characters over chemical and spore characters;
- incorporate technical terms only where necessary; and
- give more or less equal weight to phylogenetic relatedness and morphological similarity.

Accompanying the keys are approximately 350 line drawings. These are intended to convey species concepts based on typical material. In most cases, they illustrate only those portions of a thallus that bear the characters expressed in the adjacent key. Illustrations of whole lichens may be found in Hale (1979), MacKinnon et al. (1992), Pojar and MacKinnon (1994), Thomson (1984) and Vitt et al. (1988).

The manual's second objective is to briefly summarize the ecology, distribution and frequency status of the province's foliose and squamulose lichens. Until the status and ecological requirements of lichens are understood, resource managers will have little hope of intelligently managing for lichen diversity. For this reason, distribution maps are provided for species considered vulnerable to logging, grazing, urban development and other forms of human activity. These maps are based primarily on specimens housed at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, and the National Museum of Natural Sciences, in Ottawa, though reliable literature reports are also incorporated in some cases.

It is beyond the scope of this manual to provide a comprehensive summary of the biology of lichens (see instead: Hale 1983; Hawksworth and Hill 1984; Lawrey 1984). Effective identification does, however, require a basic understanding of lichen morphology and chemistry. The reader is therefore urged to consult the remainder of the Introduction before attempting to use the keys.

This manual represents a first attempt to provide comprehensive keys to the province's foliose and squamulose lichens. The keys have been tested by friends, colleagues and students, but numerous errors and oversights doubtless remain. The user is invited to bring these to the authors' attention for the benefit of future users.

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Updated April 19, 2007