For centuries we have viewed plants and fungi in isolation. Tried to understand a tree, a flower or a mushroom absent the rich context in which it lives. Recently, scientists have come to view interactions, whether between organisms (biotic) or with the environment (abiotic), as key to understanding the word around us.

NYBG staff have developed a new interface within the Virtual Herbarium that can be used to explore data collected as part of the National Science Foundation funded Dimensions of Biodiversity project in the southern Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. The team, led by NYBG scientist Dr. James Lendemer and colleagues at the University of Colorado, is attempting to understand how interactions shape the patterns and diversity of lichens in a global biodiversity hotspot.

Lichens are fungi that form unique associations with algae and bacteria, these interactions are required for their growth and survival. The southern Appalachian Mountains are rugged, iconic landscape of lofty peaks and deep, sculpted valleys. In the varied ecosystems of this region that spans six states from Alabama to Virginia, more than one thousand lichen species grow. You can explore this diversity here:

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