Hypogymnia heterophylla

Hypogymnia heterophylla, Vancouver Island, BC.
Hypogymnia heterophylla, Vancouver Island, BC. Photo Credit The Hypogymnia Species of North America

Hypogymnia Heterophylla, or as it is more commonly called, Seaside Bone Lichen can be found on southern Vancouver Island. This lichen is currently listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act. On the southern coast of Vancouver Island, there are seven known populations of Seaside Bone Lichen, they are all located within 40 km of each other.

There are thought to be around 3000 individual lichens that can be found in these populations. Seaside Bone Lichen is a foliose lichen that grows on the branches of conifers, particularly Shore Pines, it is pale grey color and has finely branched lobes. Its branches are hollow and dark brown inside, they are often covered in small black dots. The lichen’s fruiting bodies are orange-brown and can be seen sitting on short stems.

In Canada, Seaside Bone Lichen has a very narrow range. All known populations occur within about 100 m of the ocean. Look for it on the branches of young Shore Pine, especially windswept trees at the seashores. The main threat to Seaside Bone Lichen is climate change, destruction of and the removal of the host trees.

The destruction or damage of host trees has been increasing as the intensity of winter storms that have been growing in severity with climate change. It is unknown if these host trees can be properly protected as we are just starting to study the impacts of climate change in regard to these populations. The objective for the protection of Seaside Bone Lichen is to maintain the distribution, and possibly increase the abundance of all populations of this species in Canada, including any populations which may be identified in the future.

The critical habitat is partially identified for each of the seven currently known populations. A schedule of studies is included to complete critical habitat identification where accurate occurrence data is lacking. One or more action plans for the Seaside Bone Lichen will be posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry by 2020.

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