Sunday, June 09, 2013

Looking for Lichen

Did you know that Lichen can tell you a great deal about air quality? It’s not as accurate as an Air Quality Monitoring Station, assuming that the austerity cuts have not resulted in it being decommissioned, but it can be a pretty good guide.
click on image to enlarge
You see, some Lichens are very sensitive to Nitrogen, they don’t like it, so if there is a lot of NO2 about from traffic pollution you are unlikely to see it there. On the other hand there are other Lichens which thrive on Nitrogen. This does not, of course, mean that the air is polluted with NO2 because it could be getting its Nitrogen from other sources, but it’s pretty likely if you see it in places with high levels of traffic or congestion. Other sources of Nitrogen could be from dog pee if you see it at the base of a tree or on the kerbside, for example, or it could be from fertilizer from farmland or allotments. It is also common on sea cliffs where birds provide the Nitrogen.

So, we’ve been out and about with our magnifying glasses and cameras to see what we can find around Barkingside.

Further Reading:


  1. I do not know much about lichens, but I can tell you that if you spot a free-standing tree with moss growing on one side, that side is the North. How do I know? As a Scout for some 60 years, I learned a thing or three! But do not take my word for it - go out with your compass!

  2. At least I've got two types of lichen on my gate, which shows biodiversity.

    Worst problem was I had a grey lichen growing on an old azalea in my back garden. Still, my dogs solved that problem; they knocked it down this winter. It wasn't worth trying to save it. So I chopped it up and put it in the green bag. I missed its flame red flowers this spring.

  3. When my daughter was doing A-level biology I was asked to help her to study the effects of traffic pollutiion on lichens. What that actually meant was chauffering her to various places in Epping Forest, thus adding to the problem we were studying. However,it became quite obvious that the lichens increased as we moved further from the road.