New lichen database takes big picture approach to forest monitoring

By Amy McDermott

May 22, 2017

The United States Forest Service is about to release a huge new database chronicling the abundance and diversity of lichens across the country. Why lichens? Because these amalgamations of fungi and algae or cyanobacteria — often found crusting over rocks and tree trunks or garlanding branches — are super sensitive indicators of air quality and climate change. …“Lichens are such an easy thing to study and observe, and yet they can tell you what’s going on with the air,” Andrea Pipp, a botanist for the Montana Natural Heritage Program who helped collect the lichen data but is no longer affiliated with the project, told Mongabay. “And they can tell you before it kills the trees and before it hurts us.”

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