School investigates lichen diversity with help from OPAL

La Sainte Union Catholic School was awarded a Partnership Grant by the Royal Society in 2011 to investigate the relationship between air quality and lichen distribution.

To carry out this research, students made use of OPAL materials and the OPAL pollution index (a pollution score developed by scientists for the OPAL air survey).

Students with the OPAL air survey guide

They monitored NO2 levels using diffusion tubes, and also recorded the different lichens that were growing. As in the OPAL air survey, they noted the presence of Nitrogen-sensitive lichens (eg Evernia), intermediate lichens (eg Parmelia), and Nitrogen-loving lichens (eg Leafy Xanthoria).

Their study found that lichen diversity varied with tree species and location, and that the OPAL pollution index also correlated with measured NO2 levels.

If you want to explore air quality and lichen diversity in your region, download your free OPAL air survey pack and take part today.

Students from La Sainte Union Catholic School look for lichens using the OPAL guide