Unlike other game, lichen doesn’t move very fast or very far which makes them easier to hunt.

We learned more about lichen on a recent episode of Science Friday when host Ira Flatow accompanied lichenologist James Lendemer on a safari to the Tannersville Cranberry Bog.

What’s to like about lichen?

  • They break down rocks which creates soil suitable for other plants to grow. As early colonizers of barren places, lichen trap dust, silt and water which in turn support other life forms.
  • When lichens die, they contribute decayed organic matter to the area they inhabited, which enables mosses and other plants to begin developing in the new soil.
  • Like legumes, lichen convert nitrogen in the air into nitrates that help them grow. Their ability to fix nitrogen is also good for other plants – nitrogen leaches from lichen when it rains and become available to nearby plants.
  • Some animals use lichen as food and shelter. A number of birds use lichen as nesting material and some of the smaller animals hide from predators in lichen
  • Lichen has been used as a source of natural dyes for wool and fabric.
  • Some lichens have antibiotic properties that are valuable commercially. A number of pharmaceutical compounds come from lichens.

More information on lichens here and here. Happy hunting!

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