Discovering Lichens in Sri Lanka

Gothamie Weerakoon, Pier Luigi Nimis
The combination of an ancient, topographically and geologically diverse landscape and repeated influxes of biota from diverse regions in Sri Lanka in response to climatic change have resulted in a unique juxtaposition of lichens from spatially and temporally disparate biogeographic regions. Many lichen species not typically found in nearest sub-continental South India have adapted to suitable microhabitats, and survived in Sri Lanka through changes of climate. At present, nearly 1000 lichen species are known for Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, given the poor state of knowledge on many Sri Lankan lichen groups, it is more likely that 2000 or more lichen species can be found on the island.
This interactive guide intends to complement the booklet 'Fascinating lichens of Sri Lanka' (Weerakoon 2015) with an identification tool for over 100 species, mainly macrolichens. Of course, the key cannot be used to identify all lichens found in Sri Lanka, but it might be useful as a tutorial in workshops and courses for students, who will be asked to identify only the species which are included. The key is available online, and in several stand-alone versions (printable, CD-Rom, version for mobile devices). After a phase of testing, the key will be enlarged to encompass a broader spectrum of species, especially crustose lichens.
The key has been created using program FRIDA (Martellos 2010) at the Department of Life Sciences of the University of Trieste (Italy).
The first author is especially grateful to The National Geographic Society and Dilmah Conservation for funding field work in Sri Lanka. This key would have never been possible without the generous assistance and encouragement from many friends: V. Ambuldeniya, A. Aptroot, C.P. Cloonan, R. Luecking, T. Lumbsch, V. Pushpakumara, F. Schumm, N. Vishvanath, M. Wickramasinghe, and P. Wolseley, many of which also contributed with pictures. The second author would like to thank the Field Museum of Chicago for an invitation to give two lectures there in November 2014: on that occasion the two authors met, and conceived the idea of preparing this key.

Literature cited

Martellos S. (2010) - Multi-authored interactive identification keys: The FRIDA (FRiendly IDentificAtion) package - Taxon 59 (3): 922-929.
Weerakoon G. (2015) - Fascinating lichens of Sri Lanka - Colombo, Sri Lanka, Ceylon Tea Services, PLC, 188 pp.