Alan Orange, Curator of Lichens,
Department of Biodiversity & Systematic Biology
My research focuses on the family of lichens known as Verrucariaceae. About 150 species are known in Britain and many hundreds worldwide, especially in cold and temperate regions. They are most abundant on limestone, on wet rocks by streams, and on the sea shore. Some of them are parasites on other lichens. The species are often difficult to distinguish from each other and have been much confused. I aim to use DNA sequencing as a fresh approach in this group, putting our knowledge of these widespread lichens on a firm footing.
Freshwater species of Verrucaria
Some Verrucaria species grow only on intermittently submerged rocks at the margins of clean rivers and lakes. Until recently, eight or nine species were known in Britain, but a closer look at the lichens of this special habitat has revealed more than twice that number, and it is likely that more will be found. Rich sites for this group are not common, and they are usually places with clean water and little silting.
The Verrucaria dolosa and Verrucaria murina groups
Some small species of Verrucaria have the ability to grow rapidly and colonise newly available microhabitats, such as small stones on the ground in woodland or beside streams. They are also commonly found on man-made debris such as discarded bricks and tiles which have lain undisturbed for a few years. Some of the species in these places have never been properly described or named. This project aims to improve our knowledge of these abundant but neglected lichens.
The 'brown' Verrucaria species in Britain
Some brown-coloured Verrucaria species are common on limestone, concrete and on rocks near the sea shore, but it is probable that some previously unrecognised species are hidden within this group. This project will use DNA to investigate the variation of this group in Britain, and specimens from other parts of Europe will be used to place our local material in context.
Verrucariaceae from Nepal
In October 2009, specimens of Verrucariaceae were collected from streams and other rock habitats in the Annapurna Conservation Area in Nepal. These will be studied by standard methods and by DNA sequencing. The results will add new records to Nepal's lichen list, and help to build up our worldwide knowledge of this lichen family. Lichen species often have a wide though patchy distribution in the world, and it will be interesting to compare the Nepalese Verrucarias with that of Europe and other parts of the world.
World Review of Verrucariaceae
This long-term project will collate what we already know about this lichen family with the results of current and future research projects. Opportunities to study material from any part of the world will be used to add new species and to make sure that our knowledge of distribution is based on sound identification.