Biological and Agricultural Importance

Lichens are excellent bioindicators of air pollution, as many species are particularly sensitive to certain contaminants in their surroundings, such as sulfur dioxide. They represent a major food source for reindeer in Lapland and are used as cattle fodder there as well. One species of lichen (Umbilicaria esculenta) is considered a delicacy in Japan. Historically, lichens have been used as pigments for the dying of wool. The medical properties of some species of lichens for the treatment of lung disease and rabies have led to a renewed interest in them.

David W. Rudge

See also: Algae; Bacteria; Coevolution; Community-ecosystem interactions; Fungi; Green algae; Photosynthesis.

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