- Scientific name
- Graphis sterlingiana
- E. Tripp & Lendemer
- Common names
- IUCN Specialist Group
- Assessment status
- Assessment date
- IUCN Red List Category
- IUCN Red List Criteria
- Allen, J., Lendemer, J. & McMullin, T.
- Reese Næsborg, R.
Graphis sterlingiana (Sterling Lips) is a narrow endemic of the southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America. It is known only from 13 locations, and there is only a maximum of 64 living individuals. The species occurs only on old-growth Betula alleghaniensis trees at high elevations in the Southern Appalachians, which were severely impacted by widespread logging activities in the 20th century, likely leading to widespread decline of the species. Additional declines in the population may have also been caused by widespread acid rain impacts. The exceedingly narrow range of this species combined with its highly specialised ecology suggests that Sterling Lips should be a top candidate for conservation action in the United States and, indeed, worldwide. This species warrants listing as Endangered under the D criterion due to the existence of fewer than 250 individuals left in the wild, and under A2c due to the suspected rate of the past population decline.
grows only in high-elevation northern hardwood forests in the southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America. After a thorough search of the region it has been documented in the Great Smoky Mountains, Black Mountains and Balsam Mountains, three discrete subregions within the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Population and Trends
There are 13 documented locations where the species occurs. Nine locations occur in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two in the Black Mountains, and two in the Balsam Mountains. All documented locations are comprised of one to 10 individuals, thus there are very few total individuals in existence. The population size is inferred to have decreased in the past due to widespread, intensive logging over the past century that likely led to widespread extirpation of many individuals of this species. Furthermore, severe acid rain in the Great Smoky Mountains in the 20th century likely led to extirpation of many individuals.
Population Trend: decreasing
Habitat and Ecology
Sterling Lips is highly specialized ecologically, occurring only on the bark of Betula allegheniensis
(Yellow Birch). The species only grows on Yellow Birches are that extremely large in girth, and only on large, exposed roots of these mature trees. In the southern Appalachians, Yellow Birches are restricted to higher elevations and represent the emblematic hardwood of spruce-fir ecosystems.
Current threats to the only known locations of Sterling Lips include air pollution, fog pollution, habitat degradation (die-off of keystone species in habitat occupied by this species), and global warming. In light of climate change, suitable habitat for potential migration of this species may not exist for hundreds to over 1,000 miles proximal to currently extant populations. There is also a risk of specimen collecting for this species. Additionally, the population size is inferred to have decreased in the past due to widespread, intensive logging over the past century that likely led to widespread extirpation of many individuals of this species.
No conservation actions are known at present. Legal protection status, habitat preservation, and public awareness and education are the most important conservation actions needed for this species, while research into the species and its biology would be beneficial.
Use and Trade
Specimen collection is a potential threat to this species.
Source and Citation
Allen, J., Lendemer, J. & McMullin, T. 2020. Graphis sterlingiana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T80702901A80702904. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T80702901A80702904.en
.Accessed on 5 February 2024