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School of Science, Psychology and Sport

Lichens as ecosystem indicators

Lichens as indicators of ecosystem functionality in revegetated forests

Location: Gippsland/Berwick Campus

Project leaders: Dr Simone Louwhoff, A/Prof Wendy Wright

Email: s.louwhoff@federation.edu.au, wendy.wright@federation.edu.au

Phone: (03) 5122 8026

Project description: In Victoria, as elsewhere, clearing of our native vegetation and associated loss of habitat and biodiversity has been extensive. In an effort to remediate this, revegetation programs aim to return fragmented landscapes to a more functional state. Lichens are sensitive to microclimatic conditions and have long been known as good indicators of habitat continuity. They also play an important ecological role and it is important to recognise their potential contribution to revegetated forests. Lichens have been used to monitor ecosystem function or health (described as including maintenance of productivity, nutrient cycling, and disturbance response) of a forest. Their presence can, therefore, be used as an indication that this has been re-created at a revegetated site.

The overall objective is to determine if individual lichen species or lichen assemblages can be used to determine the success of a revegetation project in mimicking the ecosystem functionality usually associated with remnant vegetation. Students will develop: vegetation and lichen identification skills (including microscopy and thin layer chromatography), and skills in analysing the success of different revegetation techniques. Project aims are to: identify the lichen flora of revegetation projects in different successional stages; compare lichen species in revegetated patches with those in remnant patches in similar ecological vegetation classes (EVCs); to investigate if the revegetation method employed has an impact on lichen richness.

Key words: lichen, indicators, ecosystem functionality, revegetation, monitoring, restoration