Boreal felt lichen (BFL) and other rare lichens that inhabit coastal forests in Nova Scotia are at risk because of air pollution and forestry.  Boreal felt lichen and other rare cyanolichens are difficult to detect and as a result the knowledge of their ranges and distributions is incomplete.  Little is known about which sources of air pollution pose the greatest threats and at what levels.  A Geographic Information System (GIS) habitat algorithm was developed by the Nova Scotia government and has allowed the forest industry to use precaution when harvesting in potentially sensitive areas.  This project has fostered partnership with industry to search for Boreal felt lichen.  Since the algorithm was developed, knowledge of Boreal felt lichen populations has increased greatly.  The continuation of this long term data set will be crucial to conserving Nova Scotian populations of Boreal felt lichen.

Photo Credit:  Brad Toms


Project Objectives 

  • To improve predictive ability of a GIS habitat algorithm to increase the likelihood of finding Boreal felt lichen.

  • To increase knowledge of habitat characteristics and severity of threats at Boreal felt lichen sites over time.

  • To raise the profile of Nova Scotia’s rare lichens.

  • To find and protect Boreal felt lichen and other at risk lichen sites in Nova Scotia.



  • In forested areas, sites predicted by GIS as likely habitat were searched for Boreal felt lichen.

  • Known sites were permanently marked for long term monitoring.

  • When new Boreal felt lichen sites were found the provincial government and relevant stakeholders were notified.  Any losses or habitat destruction were also reported.

  • Temperature and humidity loggers (ibuttons) were deployed and collected at Boreal felt lichen sites on Cape Breton Island.

Photo Credit: Brad Toms


2014 Results

  • From 2005 to 2014, 337 trees with Boreal felt lichen were discovered through this project.  During that same time, 61 of those trees no longer contained Boreal felt lichen.

  • In 2014, 65 new trees containing Boreal felt lichen were discovered and monitoring of survivorship occured at 30 sites.

  • In 2014, MTRI researchers found at least 12 trees with Blue felt lichen (Special Concern), 26 trees containing Vole ears (Endangered) and at least six trees containing Frosted glass whiskers (Special Concern).

  • Forest industry employees and Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources staff visited a Boreal felt lichen site with MTRI staff and accompanied searches for Boreal felt lichen to learn about the habitat.

  • A temperature and humidity study of habitat was continued using automated data loggers at Boreal felt lichen sites on Cape Breton Island and results are expected in 2015. 


Years of Data

  • Ongoing project since 2007



  • Government of Canada through the federal Department of the Environment: Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk

  • New Page Corporation

  • Northern Pulp

  • Nova Scotia Environment

  • Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources

  • Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute

  • Mountain Equipment Co-op


Photo credits:  Tom Neily and Brad Toms



Additional Resources