Lichen, a composite organism of fungi and algae, is increasingly being used in air quality control and pollution monitoring due to its sensitivity to pollutants and ability to accumulate them in its tissues. Lichen is a reliable indicator of air quality and can be used to monitor changes in air quality, particularly in industrial or urban areas. Its ability to accumulate airborne pollutants makes it a cost-effective and simple methodology, and results can be utilized to forecast potential environmental and health consequences, as well as evaluate and manage pollution control strategies. Additionally, lichen can be used to study short-term and long-term trends of air quality and determine compliance with regulatory standards.
Lichen is a symbiotic organism that is a composite of a fungus and an algae that grows on surfaces such as rocks, tree trunks, and soil. Lichen has been increasingly used in air quality control and pollution monitoring due to its sensitivity to pollutants and its ability to accumulate them in its tissues. This article will discuss the significance of lichen in air quality, its mechanisms of pollutant absorption, and its applications in pollution monitoring.
The Role of Lichen in Air Quality Control:
Lichen has emerged as a reliable and efficient bio-indicator of air quality. Lichen absorbs gases and small particles from the air during photosynthesis and respiration. Lichen communities respond to ambient air quality by biochemical and morphological changes which are directly linked to the levels of pollutants in the air. For instance, some lichens grow luxuriously in areas with clean air, while others, that are sensitive to sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide or ozone, will decline or even disappear. Therefore, lichens are vital tools in monitoring changes in air quality, particularly in industrial or urban areas.
The Mechanism of Pollutant Absorption by Lichen:
Lichen’s mechanism of pollutant absorption is not completely understood. However, several factors can influence the accumulation of pollutants in lichens. First, the morphology of lichen provides a large surface area, which increases the exposure of the organism to pollutants in the air. Second, the hydrophilic properties of lichen accelerate the entry of gases into the tissues of the organism. Third, the presence of specific enzymes in lichen helps in the absorption of pollutants. Finally, pollutants concentration is dependent on the concentration of the contaminant in the surrounding air.
Applications of Lichen in Pollution Monitoring:
Lichen has gained importance in environmental monitoring as it is a cost-effective and simple methodology. Lichen’s ability to accumulate airborne pollutants enables scientists to assess pollutant concentration, the direction and geographic spread of the contamination over time accurately. The results can then be compared to air pollution measurements collected from traditional air monitoring stations. The data generated can then be utilised to forecast potential environmental and health consequences, as well as evaluate and manage pollution control strategies. Lichens can also be utilised to study short-term and long-term trends of air quality and determine compliance with local, state, and federal regulatory standards.
Q: What is lichen?
A: Lichen is a symbiotic composite organism consisting of fungi and algae living together in mutualistic association.
Q: How can lichen help in air quality management?
A: Lichen helps in air quality management by absorbing pollutants from ambient air which later can help in monitoring air quality.
Q: What are the factors that affect pollutant concentration in lichen?
A: The morphology of lichen, hydrophilic properties, enzymes in lichen, atmospheric pollutant concentration are some critical factors that affect pollutant concentration in lichen.
Q: What are the benefits of lichen in pollution monitoring?
A: Lichen provides cost-effective, simple yet effective pollution monitoring techniques, geospatial analysis to track airborne pollutants and can be used to forecast environmental and health consequences.
Lichen’s biological characteristics and their sensitivity to atmospheric pollutants, coupled with the ease of sample collection, have made them an essential tool in air quality management. Lichen can be used conveniently to monitor air quality, and they provide a cost-effective, easily deployable, and spatially relevant pollution assessment. Therefore, the use of lichen is becoming more common as indicators for assessing air pollution and management strategies, making them an ideal bio-indicator that helps protect our environment and health.