Lichen is the combination of fungi, algae and even bacteria through a symbiotic relationship. It is one of the few organisms we know about that draws upon and spans across multiple kingdoms! Lichen are known as pioneer species: a species that will colonize new ecological systems. An example of this is our own Catalina Island! When Catalina rose from the ocean through the collision of tectonic plates, Catalina was mainly rock, inhabitable by most plants and animals. Through wind and bird dispersion, lichen was brought to Catalina. The lichen is capable of being a pioneer species because it decomposes rocks for their main source of energy. When lichen breaks down rock it slowly will become soil and thus a potential source for new plants and life. However this process is not quick, it is estimated that it takes about 10,000 years to make 1 inch of soil! Lichen is also an extremely slow grower, most lichen only will grow about a millimeter every year.
Here at CIMI lichen covers almost every rock face we have spanning from the beach to the top of our canyon. CIMI, Toyon Bay, instructor Kenny is seen in our video talking about lichen while sporting an old pioneer’s hat. He encourages you to next time stop and appreciate our mostly unnoticeable friends next time you hike! We’re lik’n lichen!