Grand Teton National Park Lichens

Growing only millimeters a year, some lichens are thought to be the oldest living things on Earth. Lichens are not single organisms, but rather a partnership, or mutualistic symbiosis, between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. The fungus builds the body of the lichen while the alga or cyanobacteria live within this structure and are photosynthetic, producing energy and nutrients for both organisms. This partnership allows lichens to colonize harsh environments such as the alpine areas of Grand Teton National Park. Acids secreted by lichens dissolve the surface of the substrate they grow on.

This, along with their action of infiltrating and wedging apart pieces of rock, are the beginnings of soil formation. Lichens serve as food in times of stress for many organisms including bighorn sheep, elk, and humans. Many birds also use lichens for building their nests. Many lichen species are highly sensitive to air quality; therefore, they are vulnerable to habitat alteration and serve as good bio-indicators. The presence or absence of lichens in an area is a good indication of the area's air quality. Lichens absorb air pollution and heavy metals from their surrounding environment. Analyzing the pollutants absorbed by lichens allows scientists to determine the amount and kinds of air pollutants and how far they have traveled.

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Featured Park
Rising above a scene rich with extraordinary wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain, the Teton Range stands monument to the people who fought to protect it. These are mountains of the imagination. Mountains that led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park where you can explore over two hundred miles of trails, float the Snake River or enjoy the serenity of this remarkable place.
Featured Wildlife
The pika is a close relative of the rabbits and hares, with two upper incisors on each side of the jaw, one behind the other. Being rock-gray in color, pikas are seldom seen until their shrill, metallic call reveals their presence.