This very unique species of Lepraria deserves Global Red List Assessment because it is narrowly endemic to high-elevations in the Southern Appalachians, and is thus threatened by climate change. Chemical changes to rock substrates and overall ecosystem due to chemical pollutants and acid rain, loss of surrounding tree species due to invasive pests, and disturbances, such as logging and mining, also threaten this species.
This species is only found in the the southern Appalachians. It is restricted to small areas of Tennessee and North Carolina. Specifically, it is known from The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Black Mountains, Roan Mountain and historically from Grandfather Mountain.
Demographic studies are needed to assess and monitor populations sizes. Our current knowledge of the species suggests that its populations are stable.
Population Trend: Stable
Lepraria lanata only grows on moist, shaded rock outcrops at high elevations. It is most commonly found in southern Appalachian spruce-fir forests, a critically imperiled ecosystem (G1-G2 ranking, Natureserve).
The southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest is a globally highly imperiled ecosystem. Past human activities have reduced the extent of the spruce-fir forest by 90-99%. Now, these forests and the species within them are threatened by acid rain and smog (both of which lichens are particularly sensitive too), the loss of Abies fraseri due to the balsam wooly adelgid, transportation corridors increasing air pollution, and climatically suitable habitats shifting with climate change.
The known populations of this species are all in national forest, state park, or national park land, so protecting the land area where it grows is not a concern. However, there are many conservation actions that can be taken including controlling the balsam wooly adelgid on Abies fraseri, 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. 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.
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