What you will learn about lichens
In this podcast interview, which is in Swedish language, I talk with ecologist Janolof Hermansson, who has for many years inventoried and studied lichens both in Dalarna in Sweden and in Russia about:
- what lichens are
- why it is so difficult to define their composition without modern technology
- what conditions they require to develop
- what their function in our ecosystem is
- how human activity impacts lichens
- what you need to go on your own lichen discovery adventure
- what it needs to increase our knowledge on lichens
Lichens are no mosses
A year ago, when doing my grocery shopping, I noticed among all Christmas decoration at the stores these packages of lichens. Looking at them more closely, I saw a description on the package “Mossa (Cladonia Stellaris)”. Mosses however, are – unlike lichens – plants, even though they have no vascular system and don’t flower. Cladonia stellaris is a star-tipped cup lichen. Lichens, as Janolof Hermansson explains in this interview, are composite organisms consisting of algae and/or cyanobacteria, filamentous fungi and as identified in 2016 by an international group of scientists even yeast fungi.
The event at the store had incited me to have an interview on our podcast about lichens, so that more people would know that lichens are no mosses.
A life dedicated to lichens
Janolof Hermansson has studied and inventoried lichens for many years both in Dalarna in Sweden and in the Komi Republic in Russia. He has worked as an ecologist for the municipality of Ludvika in Dalarna with nature conservation projects and been part of a lichen expert committee in Sweden. In the Komi Republic of Russia, he contributed to surveying and identifying lichens and fungi.
His extensive knowledge on lichens and their ecology has led to one published book and several books that he is still working on. As he shares in this interview, an up to date field-guide book is one of the essential tools to identify what there is.
World-wide the number of different lichens is estimated to somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand. In Sweden there are about 2500 different lichens, among them 309 are red-listed. Janolof points however out that only about 50% of the 2500 different Swedish lichens have been inventoried. This makes it difficult to know how many are actually threatened. Simple observation is often not sufficient to identify the species contributing to the composite structures. Identification is today aided by molecular methods that allow to recognize the contributing partners through their DNA sequences.
More about lichens
We recommend you brew yourself a cup of tea and listen to the interview with Janolof (in Swedish) to discover all fascinating facts that he has to share about lichens.
If you do not understand Swedish or you want to learn even more about lichens, I can also recommend you listen to our friend Kaitlyn in the video here below from her youtube channel. Kaitlyn is hosting the Flora-Funga podcast and has recently invited US-american researcher Steven Leavitt and his student Lili to talk about lichenology.
Tools for your own lichen safari
Have you become motivated to go onto your own lichen safari? What you need is a magnifying glass, either a standard one, or if you like to take it to the next level, get yourself a Swiss made magnifying glass with light as Janolof has. As lichens are pretty small, this will come in handy. The other tool you need is a field-guide that will help you to recognize. Here Janolof has two recommendations:
- Svante Hultengren, Roland Moberg Lavar-en fältguide
- Johan Nitare Skyddvärd skog: naturvårdsarter och andra kriterier för naturvärdesbedömning
For people in North America, Irwin Brodo’s Lichens of North America can be a tip. If you have other tips for books on lichens, share them here in a comment on this article.