Lichen Survey Project

Lichens are classically recognized as a symbiotic association between a fungus and algae and/or cyanobacterium. However, recent research shows even more constituents in this community, including bacteria, yeasts and other micro-organisms. Lichens play important roles in ecosystems, such as serving as a food source and nesting material for animals. Lichens lack root systems, taking their nutrients and water directly from the air – this makes them valuable bio-indicators of air quality. However, given their size and cryptic nature, very little work has been done to explore the diversity of the lichens in South Africa. During the autumn of 2023, a group of national and international botanists, geo-botanists and lichenologists visited Grootbos to conduct the first lichen survey for the Reserve. The project aimed to gain preliminary insights into the unknown lichen diversity present on Grootbos. Four different habitat types were surveyed: Afromontane forest, Milkwood forest, Overberg Limestone Fynbos rocky outcrops and Overberg Sandstone fynbos rocky outcrops. From this survey, the lichenologists identified 85 lichen morphospecies, including probable undescribed species, and the total number of species present on the reserve is expected to be much higher. We hope this marks the start of amazing discoveries and further research into the lichen diversity of Agulhas Plain and beyond!

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