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Posted June 24, 2011

If you take a lichen to them, name them

The naming rights for two newly discovered B.C. lichens have been put up for auction by a pair of conservation groups.

National Post, June 18, 2011

If you take a lichen to them, name them
Click for larger image

Naming rights for this new species of Bryoria or “Horsehair Lichen”, which forms elegant black tresses on the branches of trees in old-growth forests, will be auctioned off to help raise funds for the Ancient Forest Alliance.
Photo by Jason Hollinger

The naming rights for two newly discovered B.C. lichens have been put up for auction by a pair of conservation groups.

“You can put your name [on] a charity or a building, and those will eventually fall down, but these names will be around as long as the name Shakespeare is around,” said Trevor Goward, who discovered the species. A renowned lichenologist, Mr. Goward’s name has been attached to at least five plant species by fellow biologists.

Proceeds from the two auctions will benefit B.C.’s The Land Conservancy (TLC) and the Ancient Forest Alliance.

While new lichens are discovered on an almost monthly basis, most of those are in the “dime-a-dozen” category of crust lichens, said Mr. Goward. The two lichens up for auction are from the much more prestigious “macrolichens” category.

They are also more celibate. Unlike most lichens, which reproduce sexually, the two up-for-auction lichens reproduce asexually. The Land Conservancy’s lichen also has the distinction of being a cousin of the Scottish lichens that are used to dye tartan.

Both species were discovered by Mr. Goward in or near B.C. rainforests as early as the 1990s. It took two teams of European researchers to plod through the world’s lichen literature before they could be confirmed as new species.

Naming rights auctions have emerged as a popular style of fundraiser in recent years, with groups selling off the names of everything from shrimp to butterflies to stars. In 2005, the Wildlife Conservation Society held a naming auction for a new species of monkey as a fundraiser to protect the monkey’s Bolivian habitat. Ultimately, gambling website GoldenPalace.com beat out Ellen Degeneres for the right to the monkey’s name with a bid of $650,000.

The Land Conservancy is doubtful it will be able to pull in monkey-sized levels of funding, but they are hoping for at least $350,000. An opening bid of $3,000 has already been filed, said Barry Booth, a TLC regional manager.

Founded in 1997, the Land Conservancy of B.C. works differently from most conservation groups in that, instead of canvassing government to conserve land, the Conservancy simply buys up conservation land itself. To date, the group has gathered up enough protected land to equal the size of Toronto.

The revenue from the lichen auction will go towards buying a well-trodden wildlife corridor located between two sides of a B.C. provincial park. The Land Conservancy is buying up 27 acres of land for $350,000. In return, the landowner is throwing on another 57 acres for free.

“When we do these kinds of projects … we’re always looking for a way to get the most for our conservation dollar,” said Mr. Booth.

The Ancient Forest Alliance, the other beneficiary of the lichen auction, works to nudge the B.C. logging industry towards logging second-growth, instead of old-growth forests.

Lichenologists, like deep sea researchers, are among the few scientists who still discover new species. Although new birds and rodents occasional show up in remote areas of South America, most land animals were named in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“We’re interested in things that fly around and look pretty, but we haven’t really paid attention to where the real biodiversity is,” said Mr. Goward.

Original article: http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/06/18/if-you-take-a-lichen-to-them-name-them/


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