Epiphytes in a Northumberland wood
A couple of weeks ago I went out hunting bryophytes with Doug McCutcheon and Ian Craft. We were trying to relocate a rare moss that Doug had found a few years ago in the woods between Bellingham and Hareshaw Linn waterfall. The woods were fairly ordinary at first with mainly the usual common species present. When we got about half way up we started to find more interesting species. The epiphyte communities were especially interesting, particularly close to the stream where the athomosphere was most humid.
There are two epiphytic lichens (which Doug identified) in this shot. The one on the right with the light brown/reddish bits at the end of the thalli is Peltigera praetextata. Clinging closer to the tree and occupying most of the rest of the photo is Protopannaria pezizoides. This was a stiking species forming big patches, the red bits looked a bit redder in real life. Doug was very excited to find this as it is fairly rare, mainly occuring in north and west Scotland and had not been recorded from this wood since 1897! There was at least one other epiphytic lichen that we saw in the wood which is a good indicator of long ecological continuity in woodland.
Britain probably has more variety in its epiphytic communities than any other country in Europe (maybe apart from Norway and Ireland), but they get virtually zero attention in the conservation world. One of my 'big ideas' is to some day do a detailed study of epiphyte communities accross the country. As far as I know the type of comprehensive study I have in mind has only been done once before by JJ Barkman in Holland. But before I can embark on something so ambitious I really need to develop my ID skills more. After putting a lot of time in over 5 years I'm starting to feel like I'm getting there with bryophytes, but while I'm still learning them I just don't have enough room in my brain to cope with lichens also.
However, watch out for my tome on British Epiphyte communities in about 40 years time!