By Helene Coleman & Mari Whitelaw
Guest bloggers, Helene Coleman and Mari Whitelaw, from the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) East of England team, based at the University of Hertfordshire, talk about their recently produced guides to orchard mosses and lichens.
In the UK, orchards are a disappearing habitat. It is estimated that there has been a 63% reduction in the area of England given over to orchards since the 1950’s. However, orchards are important, not just for food, but also for biodiversity. The recognition of traditional orchards as biodiversity hotspots has lead to the creation of the traditional orchards habitat action plan.
Of particular interest are the bryophytes and lichens which grow on the orchard trees. Woodlands in the UK are habitats of international importance for the conservation of these organisms and it may be that orchards are just as important.
OPAL East of England want to encourage biological recording in orchards and with so many new school and community orchards springing up this is a great time to get people interested. We’ve been busy running moss and lichen identification workshops across the East of England for community groups and hope these keys will encourage even more people to become enthusiastic about these fascinating habitats and organisms.
The fully illustrated, laminated identification guides published by the Field Studies Council have been developed by the OPAL team in collaboration with members of the British Bryological Society and the British Lichen Society. The guides are designed to help orchard owners, amateur naturalists and experts to identify and record the changes in biodiversity in the area. These guides cover 24 epiphytic lichens and 32 epiphytic mosses found in orchards in the East of England and many species also occur throughout the UK.
Anyone can use the new guides to get to know their orchard but they will be even more useful to people interested in starting to study mosses and lichens. Designed with simplicity in mind, the keys can be an easy way into the field – a ‘warm up’ – before moving on to using more complete field guides.
The laminated field guides are free and can be ordered online from the Discover Orchards section on the OPAL website or for those eager to get stuck in straight away, they can be downloaded from the same address.