‘In a world of increasing ecological fragility, there has been no more important moment to focus on the health of nature and what it means to us as human beings, and how we relate to it.’ – Lord Edward Manners.
New Species for County
Rare in County
Bacidia cf. Neosquamulosa
Probably one of the most exciting revelations that has transpired by the beginning of our scientific study of the ancient Medieval parkland is the importance of the lichen that has been found on its veteran trees. A scientific mark on the importance of its ancient nature, biological succession and the value of the restoration project.
So far, lichenologists have recorded 142 types of lichen from the parkland trees, with 15 new to Derbyshire, including one considered extinct in Derbyshire and 18 rare in Derbyshire.
One of the lichen found, Skyttea viridis, is profoundly important as it is new not only to Derbyshire, but to England and only the second of its kind to be recorded in the world. Likewise, Sclerophora pallida and Leconara subivescens were found within the park, which are both in the National Biodiversity Action Plan, the latter being a lichen that the UK has an international responsibility to protect, as it is near extinction.
Why are lichen important?
Lichen are not only beautiful, coming in a kaleidoscope of different colours and textures and shapes which paint the trunks of trees, and provide a soft coating on fallen logs and rocks, adding an essential aesthetic to our landscape but they also provide a multitude of deeply important roles in keeping our natural world working.
Requiring a healthy and clean environment, lichen are symbiotic organisms consisting of a fungus and a green alga or cyanobacterium, which work together using photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide gas into sugars and nitrogen gas into a form used to build proteins, nucleic acids and other essential molecules. This in turn provides food, cover and nesting materials for a variety of birds, mammals and insects and contributes to woodland, water and mineral cycles, all essential to a healthy, working biodiverse environment and assists in our fight against climate change.
Other vital roles lichen perform include the prevention of soil erosion and the protection of the host, be it a tree or other organism, keeping it moist through their absorption of water, whilst also providing a layer of protection against punishing UV radiation.
They are also the ultimate indicators of a healthy, clean, biodiverse environment and are used by land managers and scientists accordingly. These tiny organisms have a mighty role to play in the 21st century and must be protected.
Why are there such important lichen within the Medieval Parkland?
Lichen are most suited to environments near water as the algae and cyanobacteria need moisture to survive and are sensitive to plant succession, habitat disturbance or degradation. The land within Haddon’s Medieval Park, which could be considered almost entirely untouched for centuries, reaches out from the banks of the River Wye, and has by luck and by chance, provided an almost perfect, safe, healthy and biodiverse sanctuary in which many of these critical and vitally important lichen can survive.