North American Lichens and Bryophytes: Sensitive Indicators of Environmental Quality and Change

Bill Buck

Lichens and bryophytes share biological traits that make them some of the most sensitive indicators of environmental change. The goal of this project is to provide high quality data to address how species distributions change as a result of major environmental events across time and space. Specifically, this project will digitize the label information (the what, when, where and by whom collected) and images for approximately 2.3 million biological specimens curated in North American lichen and bryophyte herbaria. These collections represent well over 90% of all specimens collected in Canada, the United States and Mexico and held by over 60 US non-governmental institutions. Once digitized, these data will greatly accelerate knowledge and evaluation of the biodiversity of these organisms by fostering collaborations between professionals and the general public. Additionally, models developed from these digitized data will aid future mapping projections of large scale species distributions and identification of biodiversity hotspots as prime candidates for protection. These endeavors will help to elucidate regions where changes are imminent and likely to have substantial impact, as well as to facilitate proactive initiatives to alleviate such changes.