Lichens as Bioindicators

Bioindicators are living organisms that respond in an especially clear way to a change in the environment. The hardy lichens are useful bioindicators for air pollution, espeially sulfur dioxide pollution, since they derive their water and essential nutrients mainly from the atmosphere rather than from the soil. It also helps that they are able to react to air pollutants all year round. Compared with most physical/chemical monitors, they are inexpensive to use in evaluating air pollution.

Lichens can also be used to measure toxic elemental pollutants and radioactive metals because they bind these substances in their fungal threads where they concentrate them over time. Environmental scientists can then evaluate this accumulation to determine the history of the local air.

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