Air | Ecotrope

Video: Lichen as a 'billboard' of air pollution

Ecotrope | March 9, 2011 2:05 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:40 p.m.

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Wow! I just laughed out loud over lichen. This episode of Oregon Field Guide is the perfect illustration of the study I posted yesterday about the value of lichen in studying air pollution and setting clean air standards. It even includes one of the same researchers.

This show offers a peek at the wide range of lichen in the Northwest – from the lush and lovely lichen that drip from old-growth forest canopies to the shriveled, yellow stuff that grows on trees in downtown Portland and the brittle, brown, “sick” lichen on conifers in the Gorge. As OFG producer Ed Jahn explains, the U.S. Forest Service research shows how lichen, because they live almost entirely on air and water, are like “billboards” of pollution to the trained eye. Don’t miss the scene where the researchers compare the same species of lichen from the Columbia River Gorge (known to some as the exhaust pipe for Portland’s air pollution) and a forest in Wind River where the air is much cleaner.

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