Uttarakhand forest department has developed India’s first lichen park in Uttarakhand’s Munsiyari area. The park spread over 1.5 acres has more than 80 species of lichens collected from various parts of the mountain state.
Lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi species in a mutualistic relationship. They come in many colours, sizes and forms. The properties are sometimes plant-like but lichens are not plants. Lichens may have tiny, leafless branches, flat leaf-like structures.
Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Conservator of Forests (Research Wing) Uttarakhand said, lichens found in the Himalayas up to 5000 metres, are important species as they are the best bioindicators of the pollution levels. “Lichens need pure air to grow. If pollution levels increase in a certain area, the lichen species decline there. So it serves as a natural indicator of pollution levels in an area. And they are important to study in the Himalayas, given various threats to Himalayan environment and ecology”
In a report to national dailiy Sanjiv Chaturvedi have mentioned that “ aim of developing this Lichen Park is to create awareness among people here about their importance in the overall Himalayan ecology and how to link livelihood of these locals with these species and check their incriminate exploitation. One of the lichen species called Jhula Ghas is used as a flavouring agent in Hyderabadi biryani and some non-vegetarian dishes in North Indian cuisine. Their potential for antibiotics and sunscreen chemicals is also being explored by researchers. Some species can also withstand high levels of radiation and can be used as biological sensors that give us information about the environment”.
“We chose Munsiyari area for the park as it has a rich diversity of lichen species. Over 120 lichen species are found in this area. So it was easy for us to develop the park here”, he said
According to experts, Uttarakhand has more than 600 species of lichens followed by Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir with 503 and 386 species respectively.