Graphis sterlingiana (Sterling Lips) is a narrow endemic of the southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America. It is known only from 8 total populations, all of which are in Great Smoky Mountains National Park except for one, just outside the Park. The exceedingly narrow range of this species combined with its highly specialized ecology suggests that Sterling Lips should be a top candidate for conservation action in the United States and, indeed, worldwide.
Sterling Lips is endemic to the southern Appalachian Mountains, known from a total of 8 populations.
Because this species was only recently described as new to science, it’s population trends are unknown.
Population Trend: Uncertain
Sterling Lips is highly specialized ecologically, occurring only on the bark of Betula allegheniensis (yellow birch), only on yellow birches are that extremely large in girth, and only on large, exposed roots of these mature trees. In the southern Appalachians, yellow birches are restricted to upper elevations and represent the emblematic hardwood of spruce-fir ecosystems.
Current threats to the only known populations of Sterling Lips include air pollution, fog pollution, habitat degradation (massive die-off of keystone species in habitat occupied by this species), and global warming. In light of climate change, suitable habitat for potential migration of this species may not exist for hundreds to over 1,000 miles proximal to known populations).
None at present (lichens are for the most part excluded from conservation activities in the United States)
(1) Basic fieldwork in attempt to document new populations, (2) ecological work to model suitable habitat, then finally (3) testing models by checking identified suitable habitats for new populations.
Lendemer, J.C., R.C. Harris, and E.A. Tripp. 2013. The Lichens and Allied Fungi of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY, 260 pp.