Getting up close to the wonders of lichens
A fascinating world hiding in plain sight can be explored with a leading expert this month, during a commemorative lichen walk at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) on Thursday, August 31. Getting close-up with these enigmatic and often unappreciated inhabitants of trees, rocks and even pavements, participants are promised an entertaining and enlightening excursion in the company of Dr Rebecca Yahr.
Scotland has one of the richest and most important lichen assemblages in Europe and is home to more than 1,500 different species. New species are still being described to science and much more needs to be learned about them in the bid to research, protect and restore Scotland’s lichen diversity – from checking out previously unnoticed populations on the summits of the Cairngorms to monitoring the effects of climate change and restoring habitats for vulnerable Celtic rainforests.
Lichen biodiversity scientist at RBGE and Past President of the British Lichen Society, Dr Yahr explained: “Lichens can be found everywhere from inner city pavements to mountain tops. Yet, while increasing numbers of scientific papers are being published on the subject, this is almost certainly balanced by a lack of people who can recognise them in the field and so can actively work to conserve them. Every little increase in understanding our environment moves towards conserving our natural heritage.
“Our walk is part of a month-long commemoration of the life and work of the late Frank Dobson, author of the main UK lichen field guide and the man who provided a gateway into lichens for so many. His book, Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to British and Irish Species, now in its seventh edition, has been instrumental in teaching lichens to generations of students in Britain and beyond. If we have any ambitions for the day, it is to encourage lichen lovers of all abilities to come together with Dobson and learn a few species in the Garden.”
The event is free but numbers are limited; people of any ability are very welcome, and absolute beginners are especially welcome. Register online.
For further information, interviews or images, please respond to this email or contact Shauna Hay on 07824 529 028 or Sandra Donnelly on 07312 128 637
The Wee World of Lichens is a free self-led trail at the four Gardens of RBGE: from Edinburgh to Benmore, in Argyll, Logan, in Dumfries & Galloway, and Dawyck, in the Scottish Borders.
Frank Dobson (1934 - 2021), made a major contribution to lichenology in Britain by writing - and publishing - “Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species”. Since the first edition, in 1979, this has been the only illustrated field guide to all the common lichens of Britain and Ireland. In the seventh edition, published in 2018, Frank wrote: "Of the over 2000 lichen species so far recognised in Britain, this book covers more than 1000 species, plus numerous subspecies, varieties etc."
Lichens For All (to August 31 2022): A month commemorating the contributions to lichenology of Frank Dobson:
Lichen usually pronounced to rhyme with liken, but some pronounce it to rhyme with kitchen.
Not really plants, but fungi with a trick up their sleeve – with symbiotic algae or bacteria, which provide their food, growing inside their bodies - lichens are hugely sensitive to environmental perturbation. That makes them important bioindicators for pollution and climate change, and for habitat management.
Britain is home to some 2,000, species, including globally rare temperate rainforest species. So, researchers at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and likeminded institutions around the country are identifying lichen species, locating where they occur and how threats to species and habitats can be avoided through conservation.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education, and plant conservation action around the world. In Scotland, its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract more than a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.”
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