Finding lichens

Tracey Lovering

Tracey Lovering

Lower Plants and Fungi Officer (Wales) & Plant Link Cymru Officer

4th April 2017

Our CENNAD Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme is creating a new generation of lichenologists. One of them, Huw, has written a blog about his experiences:

"In 2016 I joined the Plantlife Cymru CENNAD Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme with the aim to developing my knowledge of Lichens. CENNAD plays on 'cen' (Welsh for lichen), with Cennad meaning 'messenger/envoy'. Lichens are effective messengers, that tell a story about their past and current management, environmental influences and impacts - if we stop to understand the stories they tell. CENNAD Lichen Apprentices will be trained as 'lichen envoys' engaging others in understanding the stories lichens tell us about our environment.

I have learnt a great deal in a short period of time and as a result I have recently made two new finds! I discovered two Lichen species not previously recorded at Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve. The species found where Lobaria virens and Menegazzia terebrata. Britain has an international responsibility to conserve these species with Lobaria virens considered endangered and Menegazzia terebrata considered vulnerable in Wales (Woods & Coppins (2003)). Both of these species are associated with the Atlantic Oak woodlands of the west coast of Britain. Another name for these woodlands is Celtic Rainforests because they receive such high amounts of rainfall year round and provide the perfect humid environment for these specialist lichen species to thrive. Celtic rainforests contain trees and rocks adorned with the vibrant colours and interesting structures of a diverse array of lichen species.

If I hadn’t joined the CENNAD lichen apprentice scheme I doubt I would have found these species at Coedyd Aber NNR. I came to be interested in lichens through my work of managing upland Oak woodland NNRs in North West Wales. One of the sites (Coedydd Aber) is designated as an SSSI for its woodland lichens. Seeing as I was managing a site with Lichens as a feature, I thought I better get to know them a bit better. The CENNAD lichen apprentice scheme came along at the perfect time and I haven’t looked back since. Lichens were an interest for me before but they are fast becoming an obsession.

The apprenticeship scheme has been superb, and instrumental in developing my knowledge and skills in lichen identification and ecology. The scheme provides a structured framework to learning and development without feeling too daunting or onerous. We have an amazing amount of resources and support from mentoring by specialist lichenologists, workshop and field training days, regional group work, access to microscopes, support from partner organisations… I could go on! One thing which really helps is learning with other apprentices who are in the same boat. Lichens are not an easy group of organisms to get to know but the combination of contact with specialists and also sharing learning (or struggles!) with other apprentice’s is very valuable.

Part of the thinking behind the scheme is not only to consume knowledge and develop skills but to share our learning and tell the story that lichens tell us about our environment. Lichens can tell us so much about past and present management and the condition of our habitats. So part of our mission is to engage with the wider public in how fascinating and important lichens are and what they can teach us about our natural heritage. As part of this the North West Wales group are currently working on developing alichen trail at Treborth Botanical Gardens (Bangor University) a CENNAD partner, which will introduce visitors and volunteers to a sample of the lichens supported at Treborth.

I really enjoy being a part of the CENNAD lichen apprentice scheme and am looking forward learning more about lichens and their ecology. I have to say a big thanks to all the people and organisations involved in the scheme for making something so worthwhile, possible.

If you aren’t already interested in Lichens, next time you take a walk just have a closer look at the trees, rocks and even old fence posts, you might be surprised by what you find."