Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Cetraria islandica
Creative Commons photo by Bernd Haynold.


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Matthews, Robin F. 1993. Cetraria islandica. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : CETISL SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY NRCS PLANT CODE : CEIS60 COMMON NAMES : island cetraria lichen Iceland lichen Iceland-moss TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of island cetraria lichen is Cetraria islandica (L.) Ach. (Parmeliaceae) [10,12,14,19,36]. The following subspecies are recognized [12,36]: Cetraria islandica subsp. islandica, island cetraria lichen Cetraria islandica subsp. crispiformis (Rasanen) Karnef., curly Iceland lichen Cetraria islandica subsp. orientalis (Asah.) Karnef., eastern Iceland lichen The common name is rarely used for this lichen; therefore, this review uses its scientific name. LIFE FORM : Lichen FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Cetraria islandica is distributed from Canada to Alaska; south to the Pacific Northwest, Wyoming, Colorado, the Great Lakes states, New England, and in alpine regions in the Appalachians to Tennessee [14,17,18]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES44 Alpine STATES : AK CO CT DE ID ME MD MA MI MN MT NH NY NC OR PA TN VT VA WA WV WI WY AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PE PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 11 Southern Rocky Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest K004 Fir - hemlock forest K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest K012 Douglas-fir forest K013 Cedar - hemlock - pine forest K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest K015 Western spruce - fir forest K025 Alder - ash forest K052 Alpine meadows and barren K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K094 Conifer bog K095 Great Lakes pine forest K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K106 Northern hardwoods K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 5 Balsam fir 12 Black spruce 13 Black spruce - tamarack 16 Aspen 18 Paper birch 30 Red spruce - yellow birch 31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech 32 Red spruce 33 Red spruce - balsam fir 34 Red spruce - Fraser fir 35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir 38 Tamarack 107 White spruce 201 White spruce 202 White spruce - paper birch 203 Balsam poplar 204 Black spruce 205 Mountain hemlock 206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir 208 Whitebark pine 210 Interior Douglas-fir 212 Western larch 213 Grand fir 215 Western white pine 217 Aspen 218 Lodgepole pine 223 Sitka spruce 224 Western hemlock 225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce 227 Western redcedar - western hemlock 228 Western redcedar 229 Pacific Douglas-fir 230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock 251 White spruce - aspen 252 Paper birch 253 Black spruce - white spruce 254 Black spruce - paper birch SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Cetraria islandica occurs in various habitats including heaths, dunes, coastal plains, lichen woodlands, bogs, meadows, and tundra [2,4,8,23,34]. In the southern extent of its range, C. islandica is generally restricted to alpine areas [14,43]. Cetraria islandica is a widely distributed species, but generally does not reach ground cover dominance. However, the following publication lists C. islandica as a dominant ground cover species in willow tundra: The Alaska vegetation classification [40] Common tundra associates of C. islandica include bog Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), mountain cranberry (V. vitis-idaea), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), bog birch (Betula glandulosa), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), and willow (Salix spp.). Other associates include bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), horsetails (Equisetum spp.), mosses (Hylocomium splendens, Pleurozium schreberi, Sphagnum spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), and other lichens (mainly Cladonia spp.) [11,15,29,37,38]. In arctic coastal plain habitats, C. islandica is found with bluegrass (Poa spp.), purple mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia), sedges (Carex spp.), cassiope (Cassiope spp.), and mountain avens (Dryas spp.) [42].


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Ground lichens provide an important food source in the winter diet of caribou [32]. They provide the major bulk of the winter diet of woodland caribou and are preferred over the more easily accessed arboreal lichens [3]. In Newfoundland, C. islandica is plentiful in lichen stands used by caribou but constitutes less than 5 percent of the lichens ingested [2]. Cetraria spp. are also utilized as forage by reindeer, mountain goat, moose, and muskox [35]. Cetraria islandica is valued as "good" forage for horses and pigs, and has been used as fodder for cattle [33]. PALATABILITY : Cetraria islandica is highly palatable [3]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Cetraria islandica is low in protein (estimated at 2 percent) [24,32]. Values of cellulose and lignin concentrations (percent dry weight) from tundra samples collected in June were 1.5 and 2.4, respectively [7]. Cetraria islandica contains a high percentage of lichenin (complex starches) that provides an important source of energy [30]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : Cetraria islandica is one of the few lichens consumed by humans. A powder made from dried C. islandica can be boiled to yield a jelly used in soups in northern Europe. The powder is also used in breads and cereals [33]. The astringent qualities of C. islandica make it useful in tanning leather. It also yields a brown dye [30,33]. Historically, C. islandica has been used to treat coughs, tuberculosis, fevers, and scurvy [1,30,33]. It has traditionally held an important place in Chinese medicine [18]. Cetraria islandica has also been used as a source of antibiotics [1]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : The very slow growth rates of ground lichens is widely recognized [3,35]. Growth is estimated at an average of 0.2 inch (0.5 cm) per year [3]. When frequently grazed, ground lichens on winter rangelands may require up to 10 years for full recovery [35]. Cetraria islandica, however, tolerates trampling better than the more abundant reindeer lichens (Cladonia spp.) [2]. In Iceland and Sweden, C. islandica is commercially harvested. Up to 600 pounds is sold each year in Sweden [1]. In Iceland, colonies of C. islandica are harvested every 3 years to allow the lichen to grow to a "profitable size" [33]. After disturbance on Alaskan tundra, C. islandica was present in undisturbed controls and on disturbed sites, even though these sites had been planted with native and nonnative grasses. Cetraria islandica was apparently not inhibited by the competition [9]. Lichens are widely used as indicators of air pollution or air quality. Cetraria islandica exhibits an intermediate sensitivity to sulfur dioxide and to fluoride, and may be useful as an indicator of high concentrations of these chemicals [28]. Lichens, including C. islandica, also absorb radioactive fallout [32]. Mats of C. islandica may diminish seedling establishment [5].


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Cetraria islandica is a fruticose lichen with a small to medium brown thallus growing loosely on the soil. It is usually tufted, many lobed, and irregularly branched [14,17,18,21]. Colonies are 2 to 8 inches (5-20 cm) broad. Apothecia are generally rare [18,36]. Cetraria islandica exhibits cushionlike growth, making it well suited to weather high winds in harsh environments. It imbibes water slowly and can endure prolonged wet periods [33]. Its phycobiant member is of the genus Aspicilia which has optimum photosynthetic rates at the low temperatures found in alpine environments [1]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : NO-ENTRY REGENERATION PROCESSES : Cetraria islandica produces ascospores, but sexual reproduction is infrequent [25]. Reproduction mainly occurs by means of thallus fragmentation or the dispersal of isidia and soredia. Wind or animals may play an important role in the dispersal of these vegetative propagules [1,27]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Lichens, including C. islandica, are very dependent on air humidity, and their abundance is generally in direct relation to the relative humidity of the climate. They are better adapted to cold climates than any other life form. Lichens grow best in direct sun, and can grow on shallow, sterile soils [3]. Cetraria islandica is most often found in sandy soil in exposed areas at high elevations [18]. It commonly grows on moist or dry tundra among mosses or in the open [36]. Cetraria islandica is also found on forested sites, nunataks, and rock crevices [17,20,36]. Because C. islandica is able to take up moisture from the air, the underlying soil is not as important a source of moisture as it is to vascular plants [3]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Information on the successional status of C. islandica is sparse, and the available information is conflicting. Swanson [35] reported that Cetraria spp. are climax lichens; however, C. islandica is often found in young lichen stands [2]. Cetraria islandica is also found in seral floodplain stands in Alaska [38]. Lichens in general decline in productivity in older stands [24]. Ahti [3] suggests that lichens may be pioneer plants on some sites because they are dependent on air moisture rather than soil moisture and can tolerate shallow substrata. They can persist in environments too harsh for higher plants, provided humidity is sufficiently high for lichen growth and temperature is sufficiently low to inhibit competitors. Northern boreal forests offer climatically optimal conditions for lichen growth because of slow plant succession and little competition from other plant forms. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Cetraria islandica does not generally occur in recently burned areas [24,27]. Lichens, including C. islandica, are highly flammable under dry conditions because they desiccate as soon as the humidity drops [15]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Cetraria islandica is destroyed by fire [27]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : In black spruce (Picea mariana)/feathermoss (Pleurozium schreberi)-Cladonia stands in Alaska, C. islandica was present in unburned controls but was not found on burned or fireline sites 9 years after a fire [37]. Cetraria islandica did not survive light or severe burning in the Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks, Alaska. On severely burned black spruce sites, C. islandica was not present in the first 3 years following the fire, although it had control plot frequencies of 60 percent [39]. Cover and frequency percentages on burned mesic black sites in interior Alaska follow [15]: Years since fire cover frequency _________________________________________________________________________ Newly burned 0-1 0 0 Moss/herb 1-5 >0.5 1.0 Tall shrub/sapling 5-30 0 0 Dense tree 30-55 >0.5 19.0 Mixed hardwood/spruce 56-90 >0.5 8.0 Spruce 91-200+ >0.5 6.0 Johnson [22], however, states that C. islandica is present in the first years following fire in open and closed black spruce, white spruce (Picea glauca), and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) stands in the Northwest Territories, Canada. It is present throughout seral stages and persists for 200 to 250 years. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Lichens often serve as an initial point of ignition in woodlands and tundra and have an essential role in the spread of fire. Lichens dry rapidly during periods of low relative humidity because of their absence of roots, water storage tissue, and low resistance to water loss. Dry lichens resemble dead litter more than live tissue in their susceptibility to fire. Continuous lichen mats present an uninterrupted surface along which fire spreads. Lichen mats typically accumulate tree and shrub litter which adds to flammability [5]. Destruction of forage lichens may have an immediate effect on the winter range of caribou. Lichens may take 70 to 100 years to regain former composition and abundance [31]. However, some studies indicate that fire may increase lichen cover, especially where a thick moss carpet has developed [41]. In the northern boreal lichen belt, lichen forage may be increased by burning sphagnum peatlands, black spruce muskegs, sandy black spruce stands, or tundra heaths. Fires on these sites result in lichen stands in some 40 to 50 years. Because black spruce and mosses regenerate more slowly than lichen on these sites, good lichen growth persists for at least 100 years [3]. Light-severity burning has been suggested as a method of improving reindeer range in Scandinavia [41].


SPECIES: Cetraria islandica
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Guidelines for evaluating air pollution impacts on class 1 wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-299. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 83 p. [20633] 29. Racine, Charles H. 1981. Tundra fire effects on soils and three plant communities along a hill-slope gradient in the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Arctic. 34(1): 71-84. [7233] 30. Schneider, A. 1898. Guide to the study of lichens. Boston: Bradlee Whidden Boston. 234 p. [21369] 31. Scotter, George W. 1971. Fire, vegetation, soil, and barren-ground caribou relations in northern Canada. In: Slaughter, C. W.; Barney, Richard J.; Hansen, G. M., eds. Fire in the northern environment--a symposium: Proceedings of a symposium; 1971 April 13-14; Fairbanks, AK. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Range and Experiment Station: 209-230. [15730] 32. Sharnoff, Stephen. 1993. 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In: Proceedings, 4th Canadian permafrost conference; 1981 March 2-6; Calgary, AB. The Roger J.E. Brown Memorial Volume. Ottawa, ON: National Research Council of Canada: 123-135. [7303] 38. Viereck, Leslie A. 1989. Flood-plain succession and vegetation classification in interior Alaska. In: Ferguson, Dennis E.; Morgan, Penelope; Johnson, Frederic D., compilers. Proceedings--land classifications based on vegetation: applications for resource management; 1987 November 17-19; Moscow, ID. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-257. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 197-203. [6959] 39. Viereck, L. A.; Dyrness, C. T. 1979. Ecological effects of the Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks, Alaska. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-90. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 71 p. [6392] 40. Viereck, L. A.; Dyrness, C. T.; Batten, A. R.; Wenzlick, K. J. 1992. The Alaska vegetation classification. 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