Rapid biodiversity assessment in lichen diversity surveys: implications for quality assurance
Rapid Biodiversity Assessments (RBAs) of lichen communities, obtained by means of simplified sampling lists based on morphospecies, showed good correlations with Lichen Diversity Values (LDVs), based on the complete identification of lichen species only when performed by operators with high levels of taxonomic knowledge. Furthermore, the use of highly simplified sampling lists did not lead to significant advantages in terms of time needed for field operations. This approach proved to be especially unreliable in high diversity ecological contexts where variation of morpho-structural composition within lichen communities is frequent (i.e. co-occurring crustose- and foliose-dominated communities); it may also lead to weak results if applied for conservation purposes. Hence, the use of simplified RBA sampling lists in lichen monitoring has to be carefully evaluated and, in any case, should be based on sound taxonomic knowledge on the part of those in charge of data collection. The proper assessment of descriptors of lichen abundance and/or frequency, however, strictly depends on the skill, taxonomic knowledge, and willingness to learn of the lichenologist-in-training.