Mapping Lichen Diversity as a First Step for Air Quality Assessment
The evaluation of air quality is an important topic. It is well known that lichens have a set of characteristics that make them well suited for biomonitoring purposes. Sampling lichen diversity is not as expensive as chemical analysis, allowing a dense sampling grid and reducing the costs. Lichen diversity can be used to identify more disturbed areas, resulting from pollution, land use or ecological variables. In recent years, in order to enable extended use of lichens and to reduce ambiguities, i.e., variations due to unwanted environmental variables, efforts have been made to develop a feasible protocol for lichen sampling for biomonitoring purposes. This work aims at providing the information needed a priori for an air quality assessment study, in the form of a map showing areas where lichen diversity and abundance is lower. This study was done by sampling foliose and fruticulose lichen diversity and frequency, in a region in southwest Portugal (Sines) with large industrial facilities. A long-term study has been underway in the same area since the 1970s using lichens as bioindicators to evaluate air quality. In this work, we used a standard protocol to determine a lichen diversity value (LDV), to be used as an indicator of environmental quality. In order to reduce uncertainty concerning the type of disturbance affecting lichens, sampling sites were restricted using well-defined criteria. Whenever possible, sampling site variables were quantified. This method allowed us to reduce the many sources of variability affecting lichen diversity.