Finally! The manuscript for the Lichens of the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is being written…

After three years of field work in Argentina, Chile, the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain, and the Great Basin Desert of Nevada, we’re finally making the time to publish the Turnbull NWR lichen inventory.

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Our home lab/herbarium here in Reno is getting mighty, um, what is the word for it… mightly something. Let just leave it as mighty.

The manuscript is going to be more bare boned than we’d imagined it at the beginning of the project, but Jason and I are planning on following-up with subsequent papers that address more of the ecologically significant aspects while widening our scope outside the refuge.

For this round, the manuscript is going to be taxonomically focused, noting where our specimens stray from the species concept, minor notes on habitat and ecology, and a brief discussion of conservation. And a lot of new reports for the state of Washington, and a number of interesting reports and/or range extensions.

And now that I’m done spending the past two weeks doing the tedious work delineating what species are new to the state of Washington, and what species are significant range extensions – which involves scanning through text after text for each species, sometimes relying on Jason to translate some Swedish or Norwegian text, and doing nomenclasture updates on old texts and downdates (is that a word?) on newer taxa. Ugh, I wanted to run away screaming some days. And I did. But anyways, the point is that the drudgery is done for now, and the fun stuff can begin…

What does the fun stuff entail? Well, for one it involves writing the background information for the refuge. Some of my early posts on my old Turnbull Lichens Blog touch upon how the refuge was clearcut before the NWR system bought it from landowners in the 1930s.

As we all know, after a clearcut, a forest grows in relatively thick and dense – which means for lichens an increase in humidity and a decrease in direct light. But it also means an increase in fire risk.

Man in front of a dense forest with 1,000 trees per acre. You can see how much less light is entering the forest and discern that the humidity may be higher than in more open forests.
A photo from the newspaper Methow Grist shows a landowner standing in front of a pre-thinned forest. These habitats might host rare species of lichens and fauna, but they also are a disastrous when a fire rips through – as did this past summer (2015) when the area went up like a torch for weeks and residents were evacuated. Photo credit: Karen West, Methow Grist, “Circling Back: Restoring State Land Forests” 7/18/2013

For the past decade the refuge has been thinning the forest to nurture the pre-colonial state of the ecosystem: multi-age stands in an open pine-savanna ecosystem. This strategy is totally notable and I absolutely support their restoration efforts.

The catch is that the microclimatic differences between a dense young pine forest and an older pine savanna are significant enough for some lichens that it may have caused a bit of a shift in the flora from the 1960s til now.

Is it possible that the change in microclimate might also have impacted other species like insects, invertebrates, and even birds? I gamble to say yes, but more research would need to be done to establish whether the current mosaic of patches of young pine forests is enough to sustain those species.

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