What are Lichens?
Lichens are a group of terrestrial organisms, which are abundantly found growing in different places, including on rocks, gravestones, walls, tree barks, on roofs, soil, etc. They are composite organisms, which require a clean atmosphere with sufficient air for their growth. Some species of lichens are also found in many environmental conditions as they can grow on almost any surface.i.e. from sea level to high alpine elevations. According to fossil records, these organisms were found about 400 million years ago.
Basically, these organisms are found in different colours, shapes, sizes and forms. Based on their physical features, they are further classified into different types. In certain cases, these organisms are also found with tiny branchlets, with flat leaf-like structures, a powder-like appearance and in various other forms.
Based on their mode of nutrition, lichens are in a symbiotic relationship between green algae and fungus. Many lichens partner include either one photobiont or more than one photobiont and one mycobiont, which generally varies.
According to research, there are about 18,000 known species of lichens and it has also been estimated that around 4 to 5 per cent of the Earth’s surface are covered by lichens. Beard lichens, dog lichens, Iceland moss, oak moss, are a few good examples of lichens.
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Now, let’s look at the Economic importance of lichens
Importance Of Lichens
- Lichens hold a great economic importance and are essential for the environment in several ways.
- Some species of lichens are regarded with the conversion of rocks into the soil, helps in the formation of soil, improving the quality of the soil and also by enriching the soil required for the plants’ growth.
- Lichens also plays an important role in the nitrogen cycle by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere.
- Lichens serve as an important source of food for humans across the world. The Iceland moss is an important source of food in certain parts of both Northern Europe and American continents.
- Based on the size of these lichens, Petrologists and Geologists are able to study and find the age and other features of rocks and their surfaces.
- Since ancient times, these species are well known for their various colouring agents and dyes. They are a good source of natural dyes. The litmus test, pH indicator and other dyes used in laboratories are extracted from different species of lichens.
- Lichens also serve as a Biodegradation, by the degradation of polyester, lead, copper, radionuclides and other pollutants, polluting the planet earth.
- Apart from the pharmaceutical industries, lichens are widely used by various cosmetic industries and are also a natural medicine for various types of skin diseases and rashes.
- Some species of lichens are used for degradation of pathogens and other environmental reservoirs, which causes certain dreadful infectious diseases both in plants, animals and also in humans.
- They are also a great source of food for many aquatic organisms and are widely used as anti-infective agents in pharmaceutical industries to produce antibiotics, anti-mycobacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory products.
Also Refer: Nitrogen Cycle
Also Refer: Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Substances
Also Refer: Infectious diseases
Also Refer: Antibiotics
This article concludes an introduction to lichens and their economic importance.
To know more about lichens, their types, functions, other related topics and important questions on lichens, keep visiting our website at BYJU’S Biology.