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Species Indicator

What Is An Indicator Species?

An indicator species is an organism whose presence, absence or abundance reflects a

specific environmental condition.

Lichens, which are a combination of an alga and a fungus growing together, are
indicators of air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide, a waste product of burning
sulfur-containing fossil fuels. Leafy lichens tolerate some air pollution and crusty
lichens can survive with higher levels of pollutants. If no lichens are present, it
usually indicates heavy air pollution.


Lichens are mutualistic association between a photosynthetic organism (algae or

cyanobacterium) and a fungus. Fungi obtain food and O 2 resulted from
photosynthetisis in algae, while algae can maintain its moisture because of fungi as
well as obtaining CO2 and minerals. Fungi composing lichens are usually from the
groups of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, while the symbiont are usually coming
from Cyanobacteria and Chlorophyta (green algae).

Lichens perform asexual reproduction through fragmentation, releasing pasrt of the

body (thallus). The released body part is called Soredia. Soredia is part of lichen
body composed of algae and fungi. There are three types of lichens.

a. Crustose, thin layer covering substrate (Lecidia sp.)

b. Fruticose, flat or rounded branches net (Usnea)
c. Foliose, leaf form (Parmelia)

Lichens can be found everywhere from artic to tropical area. Lichens can live on
substrate with limited organic compounds, such as on stone, plant trunk and infertile
soil. Lichens activity can cause stone to decompose. Eventually, the organic
compounds resulted from stone will form basic soil component. Because of that,
licjens are called pioneer organisms.
Lichens are very sensitive to air pollutions. A polluted area can be identified through
low population area. Because of that, lichens can be used as air pollution indicator.

Lichens as bio indicators of atmospheric pollution in Porto, PortugalJournal of

Biodiversity and Ecological Sciences, No.1,Vol.1,Issue 1ISSN:2008-9287 Winter

Marisa Freitas, Natlia Costa, Matilde Rodrigues, Joana Marques, Manuela Vieira da