Lichens In The Peak District

 In Environment

I once spent a week, with Ann, studying lichens at a Field Centre. It taught me that after miles of walking, searching, the best lichens were often in the vicinity, usually where I parked the car. There, dogs piddling on tree bases might enrich the substrate and encourage them to grow. However, my fascination with lichens had an unfortunate effect, mentioned in an earlier post. However, lichens and mosses, created all the life in this world. Although I no longer study lichens, I do see them. You would be surprised where they grow and why they grow there. Stone walls, roofs, concrete, tarmac, asbestos and, of course, on trees. Lichens in the Peak District are just another of the joys.

The black stuff

I wish it were all good news but it is not. There should be more lichens in the Peak District yet there are not. It is not evident that pollution today is bad, however, the area is surrounded by people. Sheffield, Manchester and, not so far, the Potteries. In the past, say the 1950’s and 60’s, pollution spread all over the Peak District. Add in local quarrying and mining, all releasing smoke and fumes. It disappeared, or did it? In truth, much of it landed on substrates, tree bark, walls, soil and peat. It’s still there, making life difficult for lichens to grow. Even the wood burners might be a problem, spewing out more fumes, and even my gas boiler.

Lichens in the Peak District

It’s not easy, finding lichens. Even when you do, they are small and relatively insignificant. However, put them under a microscope and an entirely new world appears. The colour leaps out, the strange shapes, the mini mushrooms, it is surreal. If the microscope has a light, this warms the lichen. From within, weeny creatures appear the like of which you have never seen. This is why small birds strip them off roofs and bark, to capture the insects. It is a world around us, which most people never see before they die.

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