Lichen could be key to reducing air pollution, study finds

Uncategorized By Apr 17, 2023

Lichen may have the potential to reduce air pollution, according to research by Manchester Metropolitan University. The research team measured nitrogen pollution levels in 300 sites across the UK and discovered a link between higher nitrogen pollution and lower diversity of lichen species. Lichen absorbs and accumulates heavy metals and nitrogen oxides, acting as a bioindicator of air quality conditions. Researchers hope that the findings will lead to the use of lichen as an alternative to artificial filters and absorbents in efforts to reduce air pollution. However, the research only examined nitrogen pollutants, and other environmental factors can affect lichen populations and diversity.

Lichen could be key to reducing air pollution, study finds

A recent study has found that lichen, a symbiotic organism made up of algae and fungi, could play a crucial role in reducing air pollution. The study was conducted by scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University, who collected lichen samples from 300 sites across the UK to measure nitrogen pollution levels. The researchers found that areas with higher levels of nitrogen pollution had a lower diversity of lichen species.

What is lichen?

Lichen is a complex organism made up of algae or cyanobacteria and fungi living together in a mutualistic relationship. The algae or cyanobacteria provide the lichen with energy through photosynthesis, while the fungi provide structural support and protection from environmental stressors. Lichen can be found in a variety of environments, including deserts, forests, and tundras.

How does lichen reduce air pollution?

Lichen is highly sensitive to air pollution, especially nitrogen pollution. As such, it acts as an indicator of air quality. When air pollution is high, lichen populations are reduced or completely absent. By monitoring lichen populations, scientists can accurately measure air pollution levels. Furthermore, lichen has the ability to absorb and accumulate pollutants such as heavy metals and nitrogen oxides. This not only reduces the amount of pollutants in the air, but also prevents them from entering the food chain.

What are the implications of the study?

The study has important implications for efforts to reduce air pollution. By using lichen as a bioindicator, scientists can measure the effectiveness of air pollution reduction strategies in real-time. Additionally, the ability of lichen to absorb and accumulate pollutants means that it could be used as a natural alternative to artificial filters and absorbents.

What are the limitations of the study?

While the study provides valuable insights into the potential of lichen as a tool for reducing air pollution, there are limitations to the research. The study only measured lichen diversity and nitrogen pollution levels, and did not look at other types of pollution or pollutants. Additionally, while lichen is highly sensitive to air pollution, other factors such as climate change and habitat destruction can also affect lichen populations and diversity.


Lichen could be a promising solution to reducing air pollution, but more research is needed to fully understand its potential. By building on the findings of this study, scientists can continue to explore the benefits of lichen as a bioindicator and natural filter in the fight against air pollution.


What other organisms can be used to measure air pollution?

Other organisms that are commonly used to measure air pollution include mosses, lichens, and trees. These organisms are highly sensitive to air pollutants and can provide valuable information about air quality.

Can lichen absorb all types of pollutants?

No, lichen is most effective at absorbing and accumulating nitrogen oxides and heavy metals. However, it can also absorb other types of pollutants to a lesser extent.

Can lichen be used in indoor environments?

Yes, lichen can be used in indoor environments to improve air quality. However, it is important to keep in mind that lichen requires certain environmental conditions to thrive, such as high humidity and low light levels.

Are there any risks associated with using lichen to reduce air pollution?

While lichen is generally safe to use, there may be risks associated with collecting and handling large quantities of lichen. Additionally, some species of lichen may be toxic if ingested. As such, it is important to handle lichen with care and to consult with an expert before using it to reduce air pollution.