Air pollution is killing lichens

RARE lichens in a wildlife-rich area of East Anglia are dying out and air pollution is being blamed.A new report from English Nature, the Government's wildlife adviser, reveals that some lichens in the Brecks area, straddling the Suffolk-Norfolk border, have already become extinct.

RARE lichens in a wildlife-rich area of East Anglia are dying out and air pollution is being blamed.

A new report from English Nature, the Government's wildlife adviser, reveals that some lichens in the Brecks area, straddling the Suffolk-Norfolk border, have already become extinct.

They include the starry breck lichen which once thrived in the Brecks and scrambled egg lichen which was once found in a variety of locations.

Other species are just clinging on in a few isolated spots.


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The air pollution suspected of killing-off the delicate lichens is produced elsewhere in the UK and on the European mainland, being blown by the wind into the Brecks.

Much of it comes from the burning of fossil fuels – to generate electricity and power motor vehicles.

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The pollution brings chemical nutrients to the earth, enriching the soil and encouraging the growth of grasses and other vegetation.

The lichens – which thrive in areas of poor soil fertility - cannot compete and become swamped.

"Although lichens are small and hard to see, they are part of our eco-system and heritage. Any loss of wildlife is a loss to us all," said Nick Sibbert, conservation manager for English Nature's Suffolk team.

Officials were supporting efforts by the Environment Agency to reduce air pollution in the UK.

"But ultimately it is up to us all to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. We should all use less energy and travel less if we want to maintain a healthy environment for all our wildlife, not just the lichens," Mr Sibbert added.

Despite the gloomy picture in the Brecks, some species of lichen are still thriving.

They include the scaly breck lichen which still thrives at the Weeting Heath National Nature Reserve, managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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