The Flooded Jellyskin is a small, leafy cyanolichen, which is a lichen composed of cyanobacteria, as opposed to an algae or a fungus. It is about 4 cm in diameter, with a papery texture and bluish-grey in colour when dry. When wet, the Flooded Jellyskin becomes jelly-like and somewhat see-through, and it has many reddish-brown, circular reproductive structures.
Habitat and Biology:
Their range spans Eastern North America as well as much of Europe. However, while it has a large range it is rarely found. There are three Canadian subpopulations of Flooded Jellyskin ranging from Manitoba to eastern Quebec with the south-central Ontario population being the largest. Flooded Jellyskin can be found in The Land Between north of Peterborough, and west of Ottawa. It is also found northeast of Sudbury.
Flooded Jellyskin is primarily found in forested areas of seasonal flooding with clean water, minimal sediment, and high availability of calcium. It is most frequently found growing on Green and Black Ash trees, but has also been found growing on Maple, Elm, and Willow. The trees must be alive as Flooded Jellyskin attaches to bark and cannot attach to bare wood. To reproduce, fungal spores are released by circular reproductive structures and transported by wind and water. The spores that are produced are exclusively fungal spores. As such, in order for the lichen to persist into the next generation, the fungal spore must land in an area that contains the cyanolichen it requires to form the relationship that becomes the Flooded Jellyskin. It takes approximately 10 to 20 years for this lichen to successfully reproduce.
Conservation and recovery strategies:
Preservation of Ash trees allows for the preservation of an important habitat for the Flooded Jellyskin. Multiple innovative traps and lures have been developed by scientists and forestry companies that allow for early detection of the Emerald Ash Borer. Parasitic wasps have also been cultivated and used as a natural form of pest control for the Emerald Ash Borer. Alternative pesticides have been explored, including spores of pathogenic fungi. The spores are applied to the Emerald Ash Borer when it enters a trap, and are subsequently transferred to other individuals during mating. Seeds of hardy individuals are being collected to be used to re-establish decimated populations that have been impacted by the Emerald Ash Borer or from harvesting. Early detection allows actions to be taken before the pest has a chance to become established in its host Ash trees.
Why You Should Care:
- Flooded Jellyskin is both globally and historically a rare species
- Ontario is home to some of the largest and strongest populations of Flooded Jellyskin in the world, so we have a responsibility to protect this species
- Flooded Jellyskin is of particular scientific interest because of its adaptations to unusual habitat
COSEWIC. 2015. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Flooded Jellyskin Leptogium rivulare in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xii + 48 pp. https://registrelep.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=1AAA604E-1
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