Species Profile

Boreal Felt Lichen Boreal population

Scientific Name: Erioderma pedicellatum
Taxonomy Group: Lichens
Range: Newfoundland and Labrador
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2014
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Other Protection or Status | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Boreal Felt Lichen

Boreal Felt Lichen Photo 1



The Boreal Felt Lichen grows on the branches or trunks of Balsam Fir, Black Spruce, White Spruce, or very occasionally Red Maple trees. This “leafy” lichen is typically 2 to 5 cm in diameter, but it occasionally grows as large as 10 cm. The edges of the body of the lichen are slightly curled up, exposing the whitish underside. Overall the lichen appears either bluish grey (when it is well hydrated) or dark grey to greyish brown (when it is dry). Lichens are unusual creatures. A lichen is not a single organism as most other living things are; rather it is a combination of two organisms that coexist in a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship. Most of the lichen is composed of fungal filaments, but living among the filaments are cells of a blue-green alga.


Distribution and Population

The Boreal Felt Lichen is a globally rare species. It has been documented in Atlantic Canada, Sweden, and Norway, but it is currently believed to exist only in Canada. There are two disjunct populations: the boreal population (the island of Newfoundland) and the Atlantic population (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). The boreal population of the lichen is known from a total of 94 existing and historical sites scattered across the western and southern regions of the island of Newfoundland. The lichen has disappeared from about 20 of those sites, resulting in an estimated loss of about 12% of the known individuals. Increased search efforts from 1995 to 2000 resulted in the discovery of numerous new occurrences of Boreal Felt Lichen on the island of Newfoundland, and more sites probably remain to be found. It will therefore be difficult to estimate the overall population size until more of the potentially suitable habitat is surveyed.



Typical habitat for the Boreal Felt Lichen is northerly exposed forested slopes where cool and moist conditions prevail throughout most of the year. These mature forest sites are also rich in moisture-loving species such as sphagnum mosses and Cinnamon Fern. In well-lit forests, the Boreal Felt Lichen is found predominantly on tree trunks' whereas in more shaded habitats it is found mostly on branches.



The Boreal Felt Lichen is long-lived, and the average age at which adults reproduce is about 30 years. Growth of a new lichen individual is the result of interaction between the spores of a mature lichen and an alga that is present in the environment. This alga is found in the water sacs of a small liverwort plant that also grows on the surface of the same trees as the lichen, and it has been suggested that new lichen individuals can only develop inside these liverwort plants. The presence of this alga makes the lichen particularly sensitive to acid rain and other pollutants. When the lichen grows on the particularly acidic bark of spruce trees, it has a reduced ability to survive when stressed by acidic air pollutants (compared to when it grows on fir trees). The sensitivity of the Boreal Felt Lichen to airborne pollutants could make it a good indicator species for air quality. The Boreal Felt Lichen has been called the “Panda Bear” of the lichens. International interest in this ancient life form has resulted in an appeal from the International Association of Lichenology to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for the protection of the lichen and its habitat.



The greatest threat to the Boreal Felt Lichen on the island of Newfoundland is likely logging. Even if lichen-bearing trees are not cut down, the removal of neighbouring trees results in changes in microhabitat (such as moisture levels) which can cause the lichens to die. Other threats include air pollution (especially acid rain), pesticides, and possibly climate change.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Boreal Felt Lichen is listed as a vulnerable species under the Newfoundland and Labrador Endangered Species Act.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Other Protection or Status

The Boreal Felt Lichen is listed as critically endangered on the Red List of Lichenized Fungi of the World (International Committee for the Conservation of Lichens, Salzburg, Austria, 1996).


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Although new boreal felt lichen individuals are found each year, the population continues to decline. Grazing from exotic gastropods may be a new identified threat. Forestry operations and air pollution also continue to be a major threat. Ten of twelve known locations where boreal felt lichen is found are protected from forestry and development through verbal stewardship agreements. Summary of Research/Monitoring Researchers have developed a Boreal Felt Lichen habitat Global Information System modelling program to identify potential new sites. About 80 potential sites have been inventoried every year since 2004, with about 4 new records for boreal felt lichen being found each year. Habitat characteristics are collected at each boreal felt lichen location and used to refine the habitat modelling program. Each known boreal felt lichen individual has been measured for growth and assessed for health each year since 2004. Summary of Recovery Activities A recovery strategy has been developed and has completed the public comment phase. The Nova Scotia government is holding workshops and meetings to develop beneficial forest management practices to protect the Boreal Felt Lichen. Some of the practices will include optimal buffer distances from roadways and forestry operations and landscape level practices that can be implemented to help conserve the species. Educational talks are being held to inform the forest industry, the industries generating pollution, and naturalists about the boreal felt lichen and the reasons for its population decline. Whenever new locations for boreal felt lichen are found, landowners are approached and asked to protect the lichen through verbal stewardship agreements. URLs Conservation and Recovery of Nova Scotia’s Species at Riskhttp://www.speciesatrisk.ca/municipalities/sar_borealfelt.htm


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Boreal Felt Lichen Erioderma pedicellatum in Canada (2015)

    The Boreal Felt Lichen, Erioderma pedicellatum, is a leafy lichen that is greenish when moist and grey when dry, with a felt-like upper surface. The thallus grows to about 2-5 cm across, and occasionally to 12 cm. The underside is white, and its edges usually curl upwards, giving it the appearance of having a white fringe. It differs from the two other North American species of Erioderma by having small, reddish-brown fruit bodies on its upper surface and no vegetative propagules. The photosynthetic partner in this lichen is a cyanobacterium. The Boreal Felt lichen is an ‘umbrella species’ for a community of rare lichens, mosses and invertebrates found in the Balsam Fir forests of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in eastern Canada.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Boreal Felt Lichen, Boreal population (2015)

    This species is widely distributed in Newfoundland and several threats to its survival have been identified including habitat alteration due to invasive species, acid rain and extreme weather events. Despite declines in some areas, new populations continue to be found.  More research and monitoring are needed to understand population trends, and the species may become Threatened if threats are not better understood and managed.
  • Response Statements - Boreal Felt Lichen (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Terra Nova National Park of Canada and the National Historic Sites of Canada in Eastern Newfoundland (2017)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Terra Nova National Park of Canada and the National Historic Sites of Canada in Eastern Newfoundland applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Terra Nova National Park of Canada (TNNP) as well as the national historic sites (NHS) of Canada within eastern Newfoundland, including Ryan Premises, Hawthorne Cottage, Castle Hill, Signal Hill, and Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur within TNNP and in the national historic sites in the region.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Boreal Felt Lichen – Boreal Population (Erioderma pendicellatum) in Canada (2010)

    The Boreal felt lichen (Boreal population) was listed as special concern under SARA in January 2005. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador listed the Boreal felt lichen as Vulnerable under its Endangered Species Act in July 2002. In the spirit of cooperation of the Accord, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has given permission to the Government of Canada to adopt “A 5 Year (2006 – 2011) Management Plan For the Boreal Felt Lichen (Erioderma pedicellatum) In Newfoundland and Labrador” (Appendix 1) under Section 69 of the Species at Risk Act. Environment Canada has included an addition which completes the SARA requirements for this management plan.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2014-2015 (2015)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 1 Endangered: 21 Threatened: 11 Special Concern: 21 Data Deficient: 1 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.