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Rock gnome lichen is endemic to the southern Appalachian Mountains at high elevations or in humid, deep river gorges.

It was listed as endangered in 1995 from threats such as recreational use of habitat by hikers, collectors, changes in microclimate, air pollution, and climate change. USGS researcher Andrea Woodward analyzed all available data describing rock gnome lichen, which spanned 1983 to 2008. Results showed that known populations increased in number during this period and increased in size from 1996 to 2008. The period of increase coincided with negative trends in nitrogen and sulfur deposition, stable precipitation and stream flow, and a positive trend in air temperature. Populations may have been afforded greater protection from recreational activities and collectors during this time. Specific incidents of population decline were associated with a high stream flow event and site-level loss of shade. While the outlook for rock gnome lichen seems to have improved through 2008, threats from climate change and increasing human activity are likely increasing. 

Woodward, A., 2021, Rock gnome lichen (Gymnoderma lineare) monitoring assessment, southern Appalachian Mountains, 1983–2008: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2021–1011, p. 12, 

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