Climbing and bouldering are popular recreational activities in West Virginia, especially on the Pottsville conglomerate caprock at Coopers Rock and at the New River Gorge National River. We propose using a simple force-meter to measure the tenacity (adherence) of bryophytes and lichens to help us understand which bryophytes and lichens are more vulnerable to removal by climbing route preparation (rock “cleaning”) or accidental dislodging. In this preliminary study we found that lantern moss (Andreaea rothiii) is held relatively tightly, probably benefitting more weakly attached species such as the liverwort Diplophyllum apiculatum, which commonly grow epiphytically on A. rothii. Leucobryum glaucum was very weakly attached, although it is very common on bouldering and climbing sites. The umbilicate lichens Umbilicaria mammulata (smooth rock tripe) and Lasallia papulosa (common toadskin) were more tenacious than lantern moss and hosted various epiphytic and epizoic species. However, the loss of extensive rock tripe colonies (with fragile thalli contrasting to relatively sturdy umbilici) is often one of the most visible consequences of climbing. Since our force-meter only works for mature thalli, we recommend that future studies also investigate the tenacity of propagula, complemented by studies of regeneration from fragments (notably lichen umbilici and bryophyte rhizoids). Long-term studies with different experimental disturbance regimes are needed to fully evaluate climbing impacts on bryophyte-lichen communities.
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Vol. 32 • No. 3