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Canaries in a coal mine: using lichens to measure nitrogen pollution

Author(s):

Marie Oliver
Linda Geiser

Year:

2011

Publication type:

Science Findings

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station

Source:

Science Findings 131. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p

Description

In Pacific Northwest forests, lichens provide essential winter forage for deer and elk and also nesting materials and habitat for rodents, birds, and invertebrates. Although lichens are often the first organisms to populate a landscape and many species can survive in the most barren environments, lichens with the greatest ecological value tend to be the most sensitive to excess atmospheric nitrogen. In areas with high levels of human-generated nitrogen, ecologically beneficial lichen species are disappearing and "weedy" species are thriving. Because lichen are innately sensitive to nitrogen, scientists use lichen community composition as an early indicator of encroaching nitrogen pollution.

Based on science by Linda Geiser, and Sarah Jovan.

Citation

Oliver, Marie. 2011. Canaries in a coal mine: using lichens to measure nitrogen pollution. Science Findings 131. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 6 p.

Publication Notes

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/37404