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Alaskan rainforests are a global lichen hotspot, new study shows

Source: phys.org

The rainforest fjords of Southeastern Alaska harbour one of the highest concentrations of lichen diversity found anywhere on Earth, according to a new study spearheaded by University of Alberta scientists.

An international team of researchers led by Toby Spribille, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Faculty of Science, details the names and habitats of lichens, a symbiosis of fungi and algae in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park.

The researchers found more than 900 species of lichen, including 27 new, never-seen-before species “This level of novelty biodiversity is usually associated with ‘lost valleys’ in the tropics,” says Spribille, Canada Research Chair in Symbiosis. “To find this in Southeast Alaska really speaks to how little we still know about coastal rainforests. There are so many new species to science that if you know what to look for, you can average one new species to science per day of field work.” MORE

Header image: Toby Spribille and an international team of researchers have led a new study examining the lichen of Alaskan rainforests. Credit: John Ulan.

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