New Lichen Species Put to Work for Their Own Conservation
$22,000 earned for British Columbia’s Wild Places!
Press Release (21 December 2011)
summary: Public auctions for the naming rights to two undescribed lichens came to a close on December 15. The lichens were discovered in British Columbia’s rainforests by Trevor Goward, curator of lichens at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Earlier this year Trevor decided to “loan” his new species as fundraisers for the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) and The Land Conservancy (TLC), both based in Victoria, British Columbia. The AFA's lichen, a Bryoria, festoons the branches of trees in elegant black tresses. Wildlife artist Anne Hansen bid $4000 for the right to name this species B. kockiana in memory of her husband, University of Guelph horticulturist Henry Kock, who passed away in 2005. The money will be used by AFA in their efforts to halt the liquidation of B.C.’s remaining oldgrowth forests. The other lichen, a Parmelia, also a branch-dweller, sparked a bidding war that raised $17,900 for TLC and resulted in the name P. sulymae, in memory of B.C. biologist Randy Sulyma who died tragically in early 2011. The money will help TLC create a wildlife corridor for southern Wells Gray Provincial Park. Trevor notes that approximately 18,000 species are described as new to science every year. He hopes the success of these auctions will encourage taxonomists around the world to put new species to work on behalf of the ecosystems that support them – an initiative he refers to as “taxonomic tithing”.
Efforts to preserve the lush conifer forests of western North America from industrial logging have attracted media attention ever since the early 1970s. Now, some of the species that inhabit these forests are being put to work for their own conservation. The right to name two recently discovered forest lichens was recently auctioned off as fundraisers for two environmental groups: The Land Conservancy (TLC) of British Columbia, working to set aside critical private land for conservation, and the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), working to protect British Columbia’s oldgrowth forests primarily on public lands.
The two lichens were discovered in British Columbia in recent years by veteran researcher Trevor Goward, curator of the lichen collection at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum of the University of British Columbia. The effort to confirm these lichens as new species for science involved an international team of researchers including molecular biologists working in Finland and Spain. The Finnish team includes Saara Velmala and Leena Myllys (firstname.lastname@example.org), both of the University of Helsinki, whereas the Spanish team consists of Ana Crespo (email@example.com) and Pradeep Divakar (Complutense University, Madrid) and Maria Carmen Molina and Ana Millanes (Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid).
According to scientific protocol, the right to give a new species its scientific name goes to the person who describes it. However, the online auctions run by these organizations through the summer and fall gave conservationists and others a rare chance to name two undescribed species – after themselves, loved ones, or whomever or whatever they chose.
“Having your name linked to a living species is a legacy that lasts,” says botanist and taxonomist Goward. “It has been almost three centuries since the modern system of biological classification was developed by Carolus Linnaeus; and even now the names of people after whom he christened various plants and animals are still with us. The names of these lichens are likely to endure as long as our civilization does. Not even Shakespeare could hope for more than that.”wildlife corridor for Wells Gray Park in south-central British Columbia. “Effectively this will put the finishing touches on one of Canada’s hallmark wilderness preserves – a project very close to my heart,” said Goward.
Goward is an acclaimed lichenologist who has described about two dozen species and genera of lichens, mostly from western Canada. He is curator of lichens at the University of British Columbia and author of more than 100 scientific papers and several books. “I whole-heartedly support efforts to set aside biologically critical portions of British Columbia’s forestlands,” says Goward. “With luck, other taxonomists may now be persuaded to put some of their new species up for auction. That would be a wonderful gift for wildland conservation”. He refers to this initiative as “taxonomic tithing”.
“We’re excited about this first run of taxonomic tithing,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder, “not only because it has helped fund our campaign to protect endangered old-growth forests, but also because it holds great potential as a creative conservation fundraiser: it connects species to efforts to protect the ecosystems in which they were discovered; it focuses media and public attention on the need to protect these ecosystems; and it’s a creative way to raise greatly needed funds for conservation groups across the planet as new species are discovered.”
“In economically stressed times like the one we’re in, even conservation efforts tend to get forgotten,” said Barry Booth, northern manager for The Land Conservancy. “Having a novel fund-raising initiative like taxonomic tithing is a real boon to conservation organizations like TLC”.
“$17,900.00! Has a lichen ever been more coveted? I doubt it”, said Goward. “I believe that future auctions of this kind will garner even more support as Canadians – and others – awaken to the honour of being linked, if only in name, to other species that share this planet with us”.
For more information, please contact:
Trevor Goward, Lichenologist, 250-674-2553, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Booth, TLC Northern Regional Manager, 250-564-2064, email@example.com
Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance Executive Director, 250-514-9910, firstname.lastname@example.org