Lichens evolved at least 400 million years ago, they occur on every continent and are extremely diverse (there are thought to be approx. 30,000 species of lichen). Studying the differences between lichen species (taxonomy) provides the opportunity for new and important insights into the diversity and evolution of life.
Lichens can be extremely tough, surviving harsh environments. Lichens can grow almost anywhere, from below sea level, to the highest mountain tops, in the coldest parts of Antarctica, the driest desert of Africa and the wettest rainforest of Australia. They are even able to grow on generally considered inhospitable man-made substrates such as tarmac and concrete.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has an active research programme to discover, protect and restore Scotland’s lichen diversity. Click here for further information.