Cladonia appalachensis (common name: Appalachian Cupless Cups) is a very distinctive species with a small geographic range and specialized ecology, it is threatened by climate change and pollution.
Cladonia appalachensis is restricted to a series of isolated high elevation mountain ridges in the southern Appalachian Mountains along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina in the eastern United States.
Demographic studies are needed to assess and monitor populations sizes. Our current knowledge of the species suggests that its populations are stable as all known historical populations (one from 1930’s, two from 1970’s) have been relocated.
Population Trend: Stable
Cladonia appalachensis belongs to a unique community of species restricted to shaded or sheltered and proected high elevation outcrops of the Anakeesta Formation which is a specialized rock type with concentrations of metals. This habitat type is globally small in extent and physiographically isolaed.
The primary threats to this species stem from 1) changes in habitat (macro- and micro- scales) resulting from deposition of pollutants and altered ecosystem chemistry from acid rain and fog, and 2) changes in habitat (macro- and micro- scales) that are likely to result from climate change, 3) changes in habitat (macro- and micro- scales) resulting from forest composition change as a result of mortality of hemlock (via hemlock adelgid), fir (via balsam adelgid), and spruce. A lesser threat is from recreation as the species occurs in some of the most heavily visited sections of the most visited national park in the United States.
The entire range of this species is lies within a national park. However, there are many conservation actions that can be taken including controlling the balsam and hemlock adelgids, educating and training land managers and local botanists to identify the species so we can monitor its health, federally listing the species as endangered in the United States, and improving air quality regulation.
The distribution of this species is very well understood. It is well documented to be a very narrow endemic. However further inventory of the remote and rugged areas within the small area where the species occurs are needed. Further research that will aid in the conservation of this species includes population assessments and monitoring, population genetics studies, and ecological studies that incorporate threats to the species. Additionally, a species recovery plan needs to be written.
Lendemer, J.C., R.C. Harris and E.A. Tripp. 2013. The lichens and allied fungi of Great Smoky Mountains National Park: an annotated checklist with comprehensive keys. Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden 104: i-viii, 1-152
Lendemer, J. C./ R. C. Harris 2013: Cladonia appalachensis, belated description of a southern Appalachian lichen endemic from the Great Smoky Mountains. - Opuscula Philolichenum 12: 17-22.