Teton Science Schools
Although present in nearly any wild space with available moisture and on a wide variety of substrates, lichen, and its importance as a bioindicator for an ecosystem, is often overlooked. As air pollution becomes a greater concern for flora, fauna, and even humans, the story told by lichen growth becomes more useful as we try to make sense of the downstream effects of anthropogenic contributions to poor air quality. One such human-driven pollutant is the level of emissions that result from vehicular travel. The Jackson Hole area has experienced a large increase in vehicular traffic in the past five to ten years in relation to the tourist industry, yet the long term effects on the sought after wild places of the region have not been thoroughly explored. By looking at lichen abundance on aspen trees near roads, the effects of varying levels of vehicular traffic can be documented. Our research supports the relationship between increased vehicular traffic and decreased overall lichen abundance, as well as suggests further use of lichens as bioindicators for understanding the negative impacts of air pollutants and the health of an ecosystem as a whole.
Aragon, D., et al. “Patterns of Epiphytic Lichen Abundance on Aspen Stands in Proximity to Roads of Varying Vehicular Traffic.” 2020 . Teton Science Schools, WY. Project Report.