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Using species data to identify the richest lichen areas

Plantlife’s work to protect the long-term future of Britain’s temperate rainforests has been boosted by valuable new analysis which has examined more than 100,000 species records.

Moss and lichens cover a stone wall at a forest edge. Shrubs cover the floor and green trees stand behind the wall

The analysis has been carried out to help identify the UK’s richest lichen rainforest sites. It has brought together records of over 100,000 species collected over the past 20 years from the British Lichen Society, Plantlife project activities and the National Biodiversity Network Atlas. 

The data has been used to map species which are key indicators of temperate rainforests. These maps have then been compared with woodlands boundaries so that hotspots which exhibit exceptional species diversity can be flagged.

What the analysis shows

The analysis revealed some astonishing figures. This included showing that some woodlands in Scotland and Wales, for example, are home to over 70 unique species. This has significantly improved our understanding of the lichen sites which were identified during our Important Plant Area (IPA) programme in 2007.  

Thanks to the up-to-date information collected by lichenologists, several new exceptional core sites have been added to the IPA network. The analysis has also identified new ‘Zones of Opportunity’ (ZoOs), which surround these core sites.  

Although the woodlands within ZoOs are not as rich as the neighbouring areas, they still have great potential. By improving their management or surveying more often, additional lichen could be generated. This would increase their biodiversity, in turn transforming them into core areas and extending existing woodland habitats.

Future plans

Using analysis to identify core and ZoO lichen sites is the first step to understanding how to focus our conservation efforts. In addition, a mapped network of sites gives us the opportunity to carry out further modelling so that we can assess the impact of climate factors on the health or these important habitats.  

The analysis is also a powerful resource which can be used by anyone with an interest in advocating for temperate rainforests and conserving and restoring this globally important habitat.

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