Lichens & Fungi | November 6th, 2008

It is all too easy to forget some of the less obvious species in the Galapagos, but if we are serious about conservation, then the more information about the ecosystem and how it ‘works’ the more likely we are to be able to achieve that goal.

Recently, Frank Bungharz from the Botany Department at CDF visited Isabela with colleagues from Switzerland and Mexico to collect specimens of lichen from the genus ‘Usnea’ of which there are more than 30 species in the islands. Frank is building an inventory of all lichens found in Galapagos and will be producing a simply illustrated guide to their identification.

Lichens, which are a symbiotic association of a fungus with a blue-green alga, can survive extreme environments, even space. They are excellent indicators of atmospheric pollution and because of their very slow growth, can be used to date structures and events – such as a volcanic eruption though measuring their growth on fresh lava.

On the fungus front, Xavier Arturo, has just completed his degree at the Central University in Quito. His thesis was on ‘The diversity of fungus of the genus Agaricales in Scalesia pendunculata forest.’ This is the tree that is the dominant vegetation in the Scalesia zone, an area that is under threat from introduced plant species.  Xavier collected specimens from 32 species, of which 13 were new records for Galapagos.  Fungi are important decomposers and the more we know about them the better informed we will be in making conservation decisions.