Ecology

Model of the Canopy Operation Access System using lichens as tree canopies

Lichens helped to establish canopy research system in French Guiana

Back in the days, our fungi and lichens Collections Manager Robert Lücking was involved in a project to design and establish a canopy access system in French Guiana for the study of the functional biodiversity of tropical rain forest canopies. The system was named COPAS: Canopy Operation Access System. To obtain initial funding for the project, Robert spent countless hours to built the model depicted here, including trees with a canopy formed by reindeer lichens.

A selection of lichens with "baby" lichens (tiny phyllidia and lobules destined to form new lichen individuals)

How lichens reproduce with "greenhorn" baby lichens...

As a symbiosis between a fungus and a photosynthetic alga or cyanobacterium, lichens have particular challenges when it comes to reproduction and growing fully mature lichens out of tiny baby lichens. Many lichens have mastered this challenge by producing small thallus portions that already look like tiny lichens and, once dispersed, immediately start growing and forming a fully functional lichen. These tiny "greenhorn" lichens growing on their parent lichen are called phyllidia or lobules, due to their flattened appearance that resembles the lobes of mature lichens, only much smaller.

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