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Caithness News Bulletins August 2006

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Survey Of Lungwort Lichen
A long term survey into a species of lichen that indicates levels of air pollution has been started in Caithness.

The survey has been organised through Highland Council's Planning and Development Service Countryside Rangers as part of the Caithness Countryside Volunteer programme of events. Caithness Countryside Volunteers commenced the survey last Tuesday 8th August under the direction of experts in the field, Sandy and Brian Coppins.

"Lobaria pulmonaria" is a special type of lichen species found in Britain. It is a leafy shaped lichen with the undersides resembling the insides of lungs and therefore better known and remembered as lungwort. Although common in the West, the species is rare in Caithness.

The lichen grows in the hazel and birch woodland up Dunbeath Strath and appears to have a healthy population in this area. The lichens are indicators of air pollution and are sensitive to environmental change but very little is known about its distribution in the East. The group wish to monitor the distribution over a number of years and record any changes.

Funding for the survey was obtained through the local Biodiversity Project as part of the Highland BAP Implementation Programme, financed by the European Union under the North and West Highland Leader+ 2000-2006 Programmes, Scottish Natural Heritage and The Highland Council.

Event organiser, Marina Swanson, Highland Council's East Caithness ranger said: "I was delighted with the level of enthusiasm and interest for this project as the event was fully booked with 18 people taking part. We were most fortunate to have Sandy and Brian leading the survey and setting up the initial work. Many thanks to our funders and of course all the volunteers who took part."

"The local Biodiversity Group is working on a range of other exciting projects and the Caithness Countryside Volunteers are always looking to recruit additional members."

For further information about either of these groups, please contact Marina Swanson on 01955 607758 or e-mail: marina.swanson@highland.gov.uk