Lichens and the liverwort among Europe's rarest
This region plays host to some of the rarest species of lichens, mosses and liverworts in Europe, which experts claim play a much bigger role in our lives than most people might imagine, writes Martin Hesp.
Now a new project has been launched to highlight the importance of the tiny organisms. The charity Plantlife has been awarded £62,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to oversee a project aimed at stimulating more interest in the diminutive group of plants.
Describing lichens, a spokesman for the charity said: "They tell us how clean our air is, filter our water, help prevent flooding, provide shelter for wildlife and over the centuries have been used for medicinal purposes, to dye wool, silk and even hair. The project will focus on the outstanding landscapes of the Quantocks, Exmoor and Dartmoor, which are internationally significant for these beautiful and important plants."
She said Exmoor's oak woodlands were the only place in England where the rare Biatoridium delitescens, Bacidia subturgidula and Rinodina flavosoralifera lichens were to be found.
"Without mosses, Dartmoor would have no peat bogs which are vital to prevent flash flooding," she added. "In the First World War, mosses were collected to dress wounds."
The Make the Small Things Count programme aims to bring about a greater understanding of the plants and their importance. The project will also offer guidance and training to those who look after the South West's Atlantic woodlands.
Plantlife intends launching a "lichen apprenticeship scheme" to combat the "chronic" shortage of experts who can identify and monitor these species – and is also planning to offer families the opportunity to explore the hidden world of lichens, liverworts, ferns and mosses by staging a series of road shows.