Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 555–568 | Cite as

Climate change impacts on endemic, high-elevation lichens in a biodiversity hotspot

  • Jessica L. Allen
  • James C. Lendemer
Original Paper


Previous studies of the impacts of climate change on lichens and fungi have focused largely on alpine and subalpine habitats, and have not investigated the potential impact on narrowly endemic species. Here, we estimate the impacts of climate change on high-elevation, endemic lichens in the southern Appalachians, a global diversity hotspot for many groups of organisms, including lichens. We conducted extensive field surveys in the high elevations of the region to accurately document the current distributions of eight narrowly endemic lichen species. Species distribution modeling was used to predict how much climatically suitable area will remain within, and north of, the current range of the target species under multiple climate change scenarios at two time points in the future. Our field work showed that target species ranged from extreme rarity to locally abundant. Models predicted over 93 % distributional loss for all species investigated and very little potentially suitable area north of their current distribution in the coming century. Our results indicate that climate change poses a significant threat to high-elevation lichens, and provide a case study in the application of current modeling techniques for rare, montane species.


Species distribution modeling Rare species Mountain top extinction Spruce-fir Symbiosis 



We thank Drs. Robert Anderson, Richard Harris, and Erin Tripp for helpful discussion regarding this project. We would also like to thank Sean McKenzie and Jenna Dorey for their field work assistance. We appreciate the work of Gary Kauffman (USFS), Paul Super (GSMNP), Ed Corey (NCSP), and Blue Ridge Parkway for the issuance of permits. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Highland Biological Station Science and Society Fellowship, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, and the City University of New York Doctoral Student Research Grant. The second author was supported by NSF DEB#1145511.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1071_MOESM1_ESM.docx (12 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Systematic BotanyThe New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentThe City University of New York Graduate CenterNew YorkUSA

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