One hundred New Lichen Species Described

Field Museum Botanists coordinate joint project of 103 authors

One hundred new lichen species described in a single publication

Biologists estimate our planet to harbor between 10 and 100 million species. Only about 2.2 million of these have been discovered and described. These include approximately 100,000 fungi (including lichens) but the true number of fungi and lichens is estimated between 750,000 and 1.5 million. At this rate of discovery, it might seem impossible that the remaining species ever be described. Taxonomists have long recognized this problem and are looking for innovative strategies to get at least part of the work done as quickly as possible. International collaboration is the key to this effort, whereas in the past, taxonomists mostly worked in small groups or as single authors.

Organized by lichenologists Thorsten Lumbsch and Robert Lücking from the Field Museum in Chicago, the international lichenological community made an effort to describe one hundred new lichen species in a single paper.

Lichens, intriguing symbiotic associations between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria, stick out by their capability to colonize almost any substrate in a wide range of terrestrial and even marine ecosystems and by their uses as bioindicators of environmental health and in the pharmaceutical industry. The 100 new species described by Lumbsch et al. in their multi-authored paper in the most recent volume of Phytotaxa sounds like a drop in the bucket, but this is the first paper ever to describe so many species in a single publication by a multitude of authors, 102 to be exact. In fact, this is the largest number of authors ever to be united in a lichenological publication, and colleagues from all continents contributed to this work. The 100 new species originate from no less than 37 different countries around the globe, including such illustrious places as the Galapagos Islands, Panama, Fiji, Kenya, Tasmania, and Antarctica. But new species are continuously discovered even in the well-known regions of North America and Europe. The authors believe that such multi-authored papers might help to describe the remaining undiscovered species more quickly. The authors also hope that such papers help to make the public aware that there is a huge amount of species still undiscovered There is also an increasing effort to train young scientists in tropical countries rich in biodiversity but with limited scientific resources; many of these have contributed with discoveries of new species and are co-authors of this paper.