What would the planet look like without lichen?
Do you like lichens? Do you love them? Oh, you don’t feel particularly strongly either way? I can’t say I blame you — we can’t all be so enthusiastic about the weird little fungus-algae mashups. Then there’s lichenologist and guest on this week’s episode of The Adaptors James Lendemer, who can utter with utter sincerity the line “Lichens are amazing!”
But you know what? It doesn’t matter what you think. Lichens, like many creatures, are “exquisitely” threatened by climate change, Lendemer explains, which is too bad because they do a lot of useful things for the rest of us. As the climate warms, lichens stand to see up to 90 percent of their habitat disappear — meaning the darling li’l dudes (OK, I’m a fan, too) could go extinct within a century or so.
Are you sad about that? Does it matter? Adaptors masterminds Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells ask some lichenologists what a world without lichens would look like — and pose the bigger question of why we clomping humans get to decide how much we like another species before we’ll decide if it’s worth saving.
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