The decline and near extirpation of lichens from urban areas was documented worldwide over the past 2 centuries, with the lowest diversity observed in many cities during the 1960s and 1970s. One major contributing factor to this observed decline was high levels of unregulated air pollution, which has a strong negative impact on lichen growth and survival. Since then lichens have begun recolonizing cities, in many cases at a rapid rate. New York City followed these same trends in urban lichen diversity changes. To better understand the current state of New York City lichen diversity, we have been conducting surveys at green spaces throughout the city. During one of these surveys we found a single thallus of Usnea on one very large, old red oak (Quercus rubra L.) at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The individual was too poorly developed to identify by its morphology and chemistry, so we took a DNA barcoding approach. Molecular data confidently assigned the thallus as Usnea mutabilis Stirton. Finding this thallus was highly notable, as it is the first report of an Usnea from New York City since 1824. The thallus is about 1.5 cm long, which suggests that it established within the last 30 yr. This finding highlights the continued improvement of urban environments for lichen recolonization, and the importance of cemeteries in providing stable green spaces for urban biodiversity.
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