Lichen on the Wildlife Wheel

The Wildlife Wheel has been there, at the end of The Race, for more than twenty years. It has aged in those years, changed colour, split and grown a fascinating crop of lichens.

A lichen is not an individual organism; it is an association between a fungus and an alga and/or a cyanobacterium.  The algae and cyanobacteria benefit from the structure provided by the fungi; they are protected and held out in the light where they can photosynthesise. The fungi feed on the carbohydrates produced by this photosynthesis.

The more we learn about fungi, the more clearly we see how often they live in symbiotic relationships with other species. The fly agaric photographed in the park last week is the fruiting body of a mycorrhizal species growing in a symbiotic relationship with the trees it was found under.

The WWF reported in 2018 that we have wiped out 60% of the planet’s animals in the past 50 years. This is truly terrifying but, if we know so little of the complex interrelationships that support an English copse, is it really surprising that our ignorance is now killing whole species?

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