Nature Conservancy of Canada nature reserve in Percival River, PEI (Photo by NCC)

Nature Conservancy of Canada nature reserve in Percival River, PEI (Photo by NCC)

Visiting academic uses NCC lands for research

Lichen specialists visit western PEI conservation sites

Usnea longissima lichen, Percival River, PEI (Photo by Troy McMullin)

Usnea longissima lichen, Percival River, PEI (Photo by Troy McMullin)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is keen to work with authorities who study particular types of plants and animals and how these species rely on the natural spaces we acquire for conservation. Their findings can help inform our property management plans.

“The Nature Conservancy of Canada has many great nature reserves on Prince Edward Island that are filled with a diversity of plants and animals, but also other organisms like lichens, which often get left out of the limelight,” said Julie Vasseur, program director with NCC in PEI. “We are grateful for the interest of researchers and field professionals in our nature reserves, as it gives us the opportunity to learn more about the lands we protect in perpetuity.”

Recently, two researchers from the University of Guelph, Troy McMullin and Rachel Deloughery, explored NCC lands on Prince Edward Island. These lichenologists (lichen specialists) surveyed the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s North Enmore Nature Reserve to create an inventory of the types of lichen found there.

They were not disappointed! The survey yielded 15 new species records for Prince Edward Island, including Megaspora verrucosa and Sclerophora amabilis (so little is known about lichens that many species don’t have common names). Sclerophora amabilis is not only rare in PEI — it is thought to be rare across the whole continent of North America.

Lichens are not a plant or an animal, but a combination of two separate organisms — an algae, and a fungus. They may look simple, but in fact they can accomplish what most of us can only dream about! They produce their own food, live long lives and can survive in the most extreme environments on Earth (some have even survived on Mars!).

Other lichen species are so sensitive to changes in their environment that they are often used to monitor changes in air pollution. Lichens, like old man’s beard or reindeer lichen (also known as caribou moss), are fairly common and widely recognized, but most are so challenging to identify that you need a microscope to do it.

Researchers had previously surveyed a Nature Conservancy of Canada property called the Pleasant View Cedars Natural Area, because rare lichens are often associated with mature cedar stands.

This time, researchers were looking for something new, and decided on the rich, black spruce forest stands in North Enmore.

In total, 122 species were collected from the nature reserve — equivalent to 40 percent of the 320 known species on PEI. This is the most collected for any one study site so far across the province.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada welcomes individuals and families to spend time on some of the more than 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares) we have helped protect across the island.

We encourage folks to spend time in nature, to rejuvenate and recharge their batteries, play hide and go seek with your kids or to simply to enjoy the natural beauty of Prince Edward Island. We also invite scientists and academics who have a particular interest in habitats, plants and wildlife to use our properties to conduct important research.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada conserves and protects wildlife on parcels of land that are either donated or purchased. NCC welcomes Islanders to explore these parcels of land by going for a walk, bird watching or enjoying the beaches, but doing so by leaving the land as they found it.

To learn more about the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work, please visit

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