International Association for Lichenology

Leif Tibell

Leif Tibell

"The Acharius Medal is awarded for the life achievements of distinguished lichenologists"
and I am happy to announce that the IAL Council has honoured Leif Tibell with one
of these awards. Leif Tibell is most known for his life-long monographic work on
the systematics of calicioid fungi, lichenized or not – the former order Caliciales.
He became interested in these lichens even as a schoolboy in the late 1950s. He
met the famous lichen taxonomist Gunnar Degelius through the Botanical Society in
Gothenburg where Leif grew up. Degelius recognized the potential in this young schoolboy
and became an important mentor for him, inviting Leif to his home for dinner and
lichen-determination session – Leif, stuffed with food and drink, carryied
home enormous piles of books and reprints, with the recommendation that for serious
studies in lichenology he should study botany at Uppsala University.

Leif started in Uppsala in 1963, and after some years of botany he continued with
chemistry where he joined a successful organic chemistry research group that included
Johan Santesson. Here Leif wrote his first scientific publication (1966) on the
identification of aliphatic lichen acids by thin layer chromatography. However,
Leif possibly spent most of his time on the other side of the road where Johan Santesson’s
father Rolf Santesson was Curator of the Herbarium at the Botany Department. Rolf
became Leif’s second main mentor and his supervisor in his PhD studies which focussed
on calicioid or mazaedia-producing fungi in a wide sense.

Leif produced a large number of monographs and regional revisions of different calicioid
groups, including several papers of considerable importance to lichen and fungal
systematics in general. On of his most influential contributions is his 1977 paper
"A re-appraisal of the taxonomy of Caliciales" where he provided convincing evidence
that this, once the prime example of a supposedly monophyletic group among fungi,
was in reality strongly polyphyletic. He also predicted the phylogenetic affinities
of a number of diverse calicioid groups, most of which have been found correct by
later molecular investigations. Another very important contribution outside of systematics
is his 1992 paper "Crustose lichens as indicators of forest continuity in boreal
coniferous forests" where he provided the scientific foundation for employing various
crusts, a most important step in boreal coniferous forest conservation. Leif has
been instrumental in guiding forest conservationists in Scandinavia and elsewhere
in the knowledge of the useful and beautiful small pin-lichens.

In his work, he has always been very early to adopt new technical advancements –
a theme already in his early papers was ultrastructural spore ontogeny studies,
particularly the development of the spore ornamentation. These studies were started
at a time when there were only a handful of TEM microscopes in Sweden, but one was
luckily in the neighbouring department. He quickly adopted both numerical-phenetic
and phylogenetic approaches to systematics in the 1970s. Later, he invested enormous
efforts in the cultivation of mycobionts, and showed that many calicioids produced
a variety of anamorphs. Recently, he initiated a large study of the Verrucariales
in Sweden and co-authored some of the earliest phylogenies of the group. Leif has
spent the whole of his university career at Uppsala, where he has supervised a number
of master and PhD students. More recently he retired from his professorship to look
forward – as we hope – to an active retirement where administrative
burdens do not prevent him from spending more time on lichens.

My own memories of Leif are very much connected with the joint fieldwork we did
during my PhD studies, namely a fantastic journey through southern Chile and Argentina
in 1989, and in New Zealand in 1990 and 1992, where I particularly remember a dramatic
incident when we were forced to cancel an excursion in the forest at midday due
to extremely heavy rain, only to find that the bridge we had crossed with the car
in the morning was now in the middle of an enormous river. We just had to get back
– our tent was on the other side – and we took the risk of driving with
high speed through the river towards the bridge which of course resulted in engine
failure. So there we were, sitting in the car in the river; I do not remember which
us opened the door to check how high the water level was, but I do remember climbing
through the side window onto the car roof to try to attract attention and help.
At the last minute Leif managed to get the engine running again so we could get
onto the bridge and over to the other side with our precious collections safe.

It was Erik Acharius himself who produced a series of treatments of calicioid lichens
(Plantae Calicioidea 1815-1817), in fact one of the very earliest taxonomic monographs
in lichenology. It is very fitting that Leif, who can be seen as a descendant of
Acharius through a number of Swedish lichenological teacher/student generations,
is today presented with this medal. I am certain that Acharius would greatly approve!

– Mats Wedin, Stockholm