Cryptogam projects

Cryptogam species (i.e. mosses, liverworts, lichens, fungi and ferns) are one of Scotland's most important contributions to international biodiversity. RBGE studies include research to optimise patterns of habitat structure (e.g. patterns of woodland isolation and connectivity) aimed at ensuring the effective response of Scotland's internationally important cryptogam communities to future climate change.

Snow-bed ferns: In the UK, the fern Athyrium distentifolium is threatened by the effects of climate change. It is restricted to areas of late snow lie in the Scottish mountains and our monitoring programme shows that populations can be devastated by reduced snow cover in winter. The Scottish endemic Athyrium distentifolium var. flexile differs in its reproductive capacity from A. distentifolium (e.g. producing ripe spores earlier in the season), and it may show a different response to the changes in climate.

Species-response: Research using predictive models to examine the projected response of lichen species to climate change, including the interaction between climate-response and habitat structure (i.e. patch extent, fragmentation and limits to dispersal). This predictive information aims to guide a long-term conservation strategy. Greater understanding of the interaction between climate and habitat is essential in developing mitigation strategies for sustainable forestry projects.

Climate indicators: Lichens are popularly applied as sensitive bioindicators. We are planning to set up a network of monitoring sites, to examine the response of lichen species to changes in climate. Selected species will potentially include sensitive arctic-alpine elements of Scotland's montane flora. This project will be established to complement studies in species-response (above), contributing to calibrating predictive models.

Snow-bed bryophytes: A new study is currently setting up long-term permanent plots, aimed at monitoring the response to climate change of Scotland's bryophyte-rich snow-bed communities. The study is in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage.

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Lichen on juniper and aspen.

Above: Lecanora populicola, a lichen of aspen trees.
Below: Vulpicidia pinastri, a lichen on juniper.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)