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Galapagos Spiny Gladiator Lichen (Acantholichen galapagoensis)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 152510692

Assessing Galapagos endemic Lichens for the Fungal Red List Initiative

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 152510692) - Galapagos Spiny Gladiator Lichen - Awarded $15,000 on May 07, 2015

Lichens are small organisms that are frequently overlooked by species conservation. They are symbiotic organisms, where a fungus (the mycobiont) forms the macroscopic structure called "thallus", which is inhabited by a population of microscopically small algal cells (the photobiont).

Lichens inhabit all kind of substrates and environments. They typically grow, where many other organisms find it difficult to survive. Lichens grow on the bark of trees, in the tropics they inhabit even the surface of leaves. They grow on wood, rarely also detritus. As reindeer lichens they are a common element in heathlands, often surviving far beyond the timberline, or they cover soils that are too poor for plants to grow. As soil crusts they prevent the erosion of deserts, and many species inhabit even bare rock.

Lichens are often spectacularly colorful, nevertheless they are typically tiny and even scientists unfortunately often tend to ignore these highly diverse species.

Currently, global red-lists remain strongly biased towards large, iconic species (e.g., birds, plants, etc.). With only three species of fungi red-listed (two lichenized) a disproportionately low number of fungi has ever been evaluated. This taxonomic bias is finally being addressed by the Global Fungal Red List Initiative, an project launched in 2014. Assessing the conservation status of fungi generally represents a challenge. On a global scale, distribution of these organisms is often poorly known. On a global scale, distribution of these organisms is often poorly known. Galapagos is an exception: during the past nine years CDF conducted the first inventory of all lichens from the archipelago. Results show that in Galapagos lichenized fungi are among the most diverse group of terrestrial organisms. Many lichen species occur only in the Galapagos, they are endemic to this archipelago. Though several endemics remain undescribed, our inventory for the first time provides excellent data for red-listing these organisms; an example is Acantholichen galapagoensis, recently submitted to the Global Fungal Red List Initiative.

With the funds from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund we are now working on the first IUCN red list of Galapagos endemic lichen species. These activities include:


- Finalizing the necessary taxonomic research for selected groups of still poorly known species

- Ecological assessment of the endemic Galapagos lichen species according to IUCN criteria

- Submitting assessments to the IUCN

- Present our project at the international meeting of the Grupo de Liquenólogos de América Latina (GLAL) in Quito, Ecuador in November 2015

- Teach a GLAL workshop “Lichen Biodiversity Assessments and the IUCN Fungal Red List Initiative” in Quito, November 2015

- Publish an updated, revised CDF Galapagos Lichen Checklist


Project 152510692 location - Ecuador, South America