Pier Luigi Nimis, Jurga Motiejūnaitė
Abstract: this is a key to all lichens hitherto known from Lithuania. It includes all lichenised species, plus some non-lichenised and non-lichenicolous fungi traditionally treated by lichenologists, while non-lichenised, lichenicolous species are included only when they belong to genera with lichenised species. The key, which includes 631 infrageneric taxa, is largely derived from an e-key of the lichens of Northern Italy (c. 97% of the species present in Lithuania do occur there), as an experiment of automatically creating a smaller from a larger key. Nomenclature will be updated following every update in ITALIC, the information system on Italian Lichens. New species will be added whenever new records from Lithuania will be published.

A brief outline of Lithuanian Nature and its lichen biota

The territory of Lithuania lying between latitudes 53°54' and 56°27' N and longitudes 20°56' and 26°51' E, has a transitional climate ranging from maritime in the west to subcontinental in the east. Biogeographically, the country lies on the border of two vegetation zones: the southwestern part is in the temperate zone, while the rest is in the hemiboreal zone (Ahti & al. 1968). There are almost no natural rock outcrops in the country, with the exception of a few limestone outcrops in northern Lithuania, which have formed along river beds. Siliceous rocks are present only in the form of stones and boulders. The largest accumulations are in the terminal moraines in north-western Lithuania.
Due to the relatively homogeneous natural conditions and the strong influence of human activity, the lichen biota of Lithuania is not very rich and there are no marked differences between parts of the country. The diversity of saxicolous lichens is highest in the northern part of the country, some of them are found only in boulder fields of terminal moraines, especially in the north-west. There are only a few epiphytic or terricolous lichens that are more common or are exclusively found in the western part of the country compared to the eastern part, and vice versa. On the other hand, rare, endangered and Red-Listed lichens are more common in the eastern part of Lithuania, where natural forest cover is better preserved.

History of Lichenology in Lithuania

The history of lichenology in Lithuania is directly related to the general history of the country, the occupations, territorial changes and the suspension of university and scientific activities from 1832 to 1918, and the almost complete isolation of the country from world science at that time, as well as the partial isolation and limitations of researchers after the Second World War up to the 1990s.
As with plants and many other groups of fungi, the first data on lichens in Lithuania appeared in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in the works of the first botanists of Vilnius University. The first mention of lichens was made by Jean Emanuel Gilibert (Gilibert 1781) and later by Stanisław Bonifacy Jundziłł (Jundziłł 1811). These works do not specify the localities of the species, and the territory covers the whole of the historical Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Lithuania, present-day Belarus and part of present-day Ukraine). Later, similar works by Józef Jundziłł and Ambraziejus Pabrėža indicate localities for at least some of the lichen species, including the present-day territory of Lithuania, part of their collections having been preserved in the herbaria of the Universities of Vilnius and Cracow. In addition to these collections, the Vilnius University Herbarium has lichen collections from anonymous 19th century collectors; unfortunately, almost none of them is provided with a collection date or locality.
In the middle of the 19th century, two papers by Arnold Ohlert (Ohlert 1863, 1870) were published in Königsberg, East Prussia, in which the lichen flora of the present-day Lithuanian territory of Klaipėda district and the Curonian Spit is also mentioned. Georg Lettau, a prominent German lichenologist, studied lichens in East Prussia. Two of his papers also mention lichens found in the Klaipėda Region and Curonian Spit (Lettau 1919, 1912). Unfortunately, both Ohlert's and Lettau's collections were lost during World War II. Among the later East Prussian studies, mention should be made of the monograph on the morphology and vegetation of the Curonian Spit by the geobotanist Karl Heinz Paul, whose botanical descriptions include many species of lichens (Paul, 1953).
In the first half of the 20th century, data on Lithuanian lichens were collected by botanists from the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and the Vilnius Stefan Batory University, the latter belonging to Poland at the time. These were usually small lists of lichen species, either as part of a general botanical inventory of the areas studied or as part of geobotanical studies. The botanists of the Vytautas Magnus University of Kaunas collaborated with the University of Helsinki, and the lichens mentioned in the works of some botanists were identified by Veli Räsänen. Finnish botanists also collected lichens during their visits to Lithuania (Räsänen 1946). A large number of lichen specimens from that period is kept in the herbaria of the Vilnius and Helsinki Universities. Similar work has been carried out at the Stefan Batory University, although some publications, e.g. papers by Andrzej Michalski (Michalski 1935, 1936, 1937) deal exclusively with lichens and lichenicolous fungi. In the parts of Lithuania that then belonged to Poland, botanists and lichenologists from other Polish universities have also carried out studies; some of the specimens were identified by Józef Motyka, a prominent Polish lichenologist of the 20th century. Unfortunately, only very few herbarium specimens from these studies have survived.
After the Second World War, there were no lichenological studies until the beginning of the 1960s, when Antanas Minkevičius, printed the first checklist of Lithuanian lichens, mainly based on pre-war publications (Minkevičius 1963). In the second half of the 20th century until the mid-1980s, Lithuanian lichens were studied by Teklė Rudzinskaitė. Due to political persecution, she was unable to work as a researcher, but in her spare time she amassed a large collection of lichens and published several papers (Rudzinskaitė 1967, 1976, 1982) and (together with co-authors) compiled a guidebook for the identification of Lithuanian lichens (Minkevičius & al. 1983). The entire collection of lichens by T. Rudzinskaitė is kept in the herbarium of the Vilnius University. Lichens were also collected by Estonian and Latvian lichenologists who visited Lithuania, and these collections are stored in the herbaria of the Universities of Riga and Tartu, but these data have not been published so far.
Since the second half of the 1980s, lichen research in Lithuania has been mainly carried out by Jurga Motiejūnaitė. Also, a considerable amount of data has been collected by lichenologists from various countries who have visited Lithuania.

The present key

The list of species largely derives from the latest checklist of the lichens of Lithuania (Motiejūnaitė 2017), with the addition of some new records which were not considered there, mainly published in more recent years (Kukwa 2011, Pykälä & al. 2017, Zhurbenko & Pino-Bodas, 2017, Knudsen & Kocourková, 2020, Yatsyna & al. 2020). We refer to the checklist for further literature references and for more detailed explanations on the evaluation of the commonness/rarity of species. The key, including descriptions and images, was produced using software FRIDA (Martellos 2010), and largely derives from the key to the Lichens of Northern Italy by P.L. Nimis (c. 97% of the species present in Lithuania do occur there), which is published online in ITALIC 7.0, the information system on Italian lichens (Martellos & al. 2023), as part of the work towards a complete key to all lichens of Italy (Nimis & Martellos 2020). The key, which was created as an experiment of automatically deriving a smaller from a larger key, includes all lichenised species, plus some non-lichenised and non lichenicolous fungi traditionally treated by lichenologists, while lichenicolous, non-lichenised species are included only when they belong to genera with lichenised species, for a total of 629 infrageneric taxa. Nomenclature will be automatically updated following every update in ITALIC. New species will be added whenever new records from Lithuania will be published. Critical input from users is welcome.
Two query interfaces are available:
1) Dichotomous A classical dichotomous key where, at any step, one can obtain a textual key (incl. pictures) of the remaining species. A link to ITALIC has been maintained when accessing a taxon from the taxon list, because it gives access to more information, such a thesaurus of synonyms, ecological indicator values and the possibility of searching the references cited in the notes to taxa in the present key.
2) Multi-entry: This query interface allows to specify a set of characters which fit those of the specimen at hand: the result will be a dichotomous key including only the species which share these characters. If the genus is known, one can also obtain a dichotomous key of all species of that genus (or one can combine the genus name with some other character: e.g. a key to all epiphytic species of Lecanora reacting K+ yellow). Two suggestions: 1) If you want to start again the multi-entry interface, select ‘Key home page’ and re-launch the key. 2) When you use the multi-entry interface, select only characters which you are sure of. If you are in doubt, better leave the field empty.


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Last modified: November, 24, 2023