Instytut Botaniki im. W. Szafera Polskiej Akademii Nauk - W. Szafer Institute of Botany, Polish Academy of Sciences
The Carpathians, one of the largest mountain systems of Central Europe, are a very interesting object for nature studies, including lichenological research. Lichens are a characteristic element of the landscape in forest belts as well as in the alpine and subnival belts. The diversity and abundance of the Carpathian lichen flora is connected with the diversification of habitat conditions created by the specific surface features and varied climatic conditions of this mountain system. The biology of lichens, enabling them to survive in extreme habitat conditions, also contributes to their wide distribution.
Lichenological studies by Polish researchers and scientists from other Carpathian countries have a long history in the Carpathians, more than a century. The abundant Polish lichenological literature concerning these mountains comprises more than 300 publications; however, the Carpathian lichen flora is still insufficiently known in Poland. Knowledge of the particular mountain ranges is uneven. Comprehensive and current information has been collected for some areas; other regions have been studied only partially. Information about some regions is out of date, in part because of rapid habitat changes occurring there as an effect of human activity. The Tatra Mts, and particularly their highest zones, need thorough exploration. Knowledge of the lichens of the Polish Carpathians, though far from satisfactory, is advanced enough to justify an attempt to sum up the results of past studies. The present list of taxa, also providing data on their distribution in particular physico-geographical regions, shows the species diversity of the lichens in this area and the state of knowledge about them.
The present number of lichen species and allied fungi, occurring in the Carpathians, is 1327, or 75% of the taxa reported from Poland. One may expect this number to increase in the coming years for different reasons. One of them is the use of new techniques in taxonomical studies, including thin-layer chromatography, enabling identification of sterile species, or molecular studies, which allow us to distinguish very closely related taxa. More thorough field studies may also lead to the discovery of tiny, inconspicuous crustaceous lichens, not reported from the area so far.This monograph is intended to contribute to the intensification of lichenological research in the Carpathians, both elementary studies such as systematics, phytogeography or ecology, and application studies connected with nature conservation and environmental protection. It may be also served as a starting point for a badly needed analysis of the diversity of lichens and allied fungi in the whole Carpathians. The results of such analysis might permit the development of an extensive, rational program for conservation of this biodiversity. The present list is an important stage in the preparation of a red list of Carpathian lichens. It should also stimulate systematic studies of critical groups of taxa in the entire region.