Saturday, 25 June 2016

Lichen heath

The tundra in northern Norway covers a vast area and the landscape appears to be one large spread of rolling heath of browns and greens. From one horizon round to the other. The richness however, is in the detail, the fine structures and colours of the lichens which form some of the main ground cover. Hence, this post is simply a sample of shots to show the beauty of the lichens.

Most of the lichens are fruticose, those that grow in shrubby bush-type structural forms, and most are Cladonia species.I do not list them here, for that would detract from the visual appeal that I  have tried to portray, rather than a scientific list.

Bells of Blue Mountain Heath  Phyllodoce caerulea stretch up above the lichen sward.

When looked at in fine detail the lichens resemble the form and colours of a coral reef. And both are being destroyed by human influences. In the case of the lichens, they are being eaten and trampled by large herds of reindeer. There are hundreds of thousands of reindeer in northern Norway, herded by the indigenous Sami people. The lichens shown here are only a few centimetres tall, and in sparse clumps. In areas where there is less grazing by reindeer, they grow much more luxuriantly, often several centimetres tall. For more on this and some dramatic aerial images of the effect of reindeer, see this article in Arctic Biodiversity Trends.  I find it ironic that these lichens are often collectively referred to as reindeer lichens.

But for now, forget the ecological damage and political discussions, simply enjoy the colours and forms of the lichens as they are.

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