Human and Ecological Relevance of Lichens

One environmental factor from modern civilization has a marked effect on lichens. They are exceptionally sensitive to pollution, particularly that of sulfur dioxide. In fact, their sensitivity to this air pollutant is so great that it has been possible to calculate the amount of sulfur dioxide present in the air solely by mapping the occurrence or disappearance of certain lichens in a given area. Such studies have shown that some species of lichens have disappeared entirely from industrial areas and are now facing extinction due to air pollution. They are also very sensitive to nuclear radiation and were used on one occasion to monitor radioactive contamination when a satellite fell to earth in a remote area. After the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, reindeer moss lichens

Chapter 19

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